GTUC information regarding COVID-19 situation in Georgia

The situation created by the spread of Covid-19 in Georgia has once again revealed the problems associated with years of neo-liberal policy and market fundamentalism in the country. Because of this, the state was absolutely unprepared to address the challenge due to the lack of minimal social safeguards and unbalanced healthcare system.

We believe that the state would have responded better to the challenges if they realized our initiatives on unemployment benefits, minimum wages, pensions and more. However, the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation realizes that this is not the time for criticism and that joint efforts are needed to address the problem.

The Georgian government has begun taking measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the end of February, by closing borders with certain countries and by introducing a quarantine and self-isolation regime for those coming from those countries. Immediately, GTUC issued a statement and appealed to the state to amend the legislation requiring employers to pay wages not only to their employees in quarantine but also to those self-isolating. The Government of Georgia fully shared our position and from March 4, all workers will be fully compensated for a two-week period of self-isolation.

The state of emergency has been declared in the country for one month since March 21, imposing restrictions on a number of economic sectors. However, there were no specific rules on virus safety standards for occupational health and safety and employer obligations. The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation uninterruptedly has been remotely providing legal services to workers. This process revealed numerous violations of workers’ rights. In this regard, we also addressed the Georgian Prime Minister on March 23 and demanded that the rules to be laid down and that the Labour Inspection should exercise strict control over their enforcement.

In response, on March 24-29, new guidelines were issued for various sectors: construction, services, trade sectors, etc., detailing labour health and safety standards during the virus, including our request to emphasize the employer’s obligation to ensure that employees are not only provided with collective, but also individual protection gear (protection masks, gloves, disinfectant, etc.).

From the first days, we called on the Georgian government to set up a special fund to raise funds to support measures against Covid-19. The government has set up such a fund, where GTUC has transferred GEL 20,000 and in addition, we have offered two our facilities in Kobuleti and Kechkhobi to the government for quarantine purposes.

In addition, GTUC provided food products and personal protective equipment to workers: health care personnel, journalists, railway workers, metro workers, couriers, etc.

In addition, we appealed to the government to postpone utility bills for at least two months for those who became unemployed and provide certain financial assistance to those who need it most. In this process, the needs of the self-employed who account for almost 48% of total employment are especially significant.

We are currently working on an initiative that will give parents who have kindergarten and school age children a flexible working regime or possibility to work remotely in order to enable them to take care of their children during the school suspension. Also, another important issue is provision of transport for employees by employers that we have already managed to achieve in several companies.