Trade union manifestation in Georgia

On 1 October, on the occasion of Georgian Labour Day, the GTUC has organised a manifestation to protest against antiunion actions by the Georgian government and by the employers, deficit of decent work policies and lack of genuine social dialog and to support trade union activists of Hercules plant in Kutaisi.

We, participants of Action-Manifestation devoted to the “Day of Decent Work” held on October 1, 2011, D E C L A R E

“The property which every man has is his own labour; as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable… To hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what matter he thinks proper without injury to his neighbor is a plain violation of this most sacred property.” These words pronounced back in the 18th century by Adam Smith are not only relevant today, but also demonstrates in a crystal clear way the extremely outdated and savage attitude towards workers practiced by many governments throughout the world. Unfortunately, events unfolded in Kutaisi in September 2011, when the Authorities mercilessly raided an organized strike carried out by the Metal Workers Trade Union in full compliance with the Georgian legislation, placed Georgia in a long row of countries like Burma and Belorussia. The aforementioned fact has clearly demonstrated to the Georgian society, that until labour is not liberated from the Authorities’ diktat and until a genuine dialogue on working places is not recognized as the paramount instrument for democratic development of the country, our civil society is doomed to remain in a embryonic situation.

Of course, the gross violation of Kutaisi metal workers’ rights is not the first case in the modern Georgian history when the legitimate and just demands of Georgian citizens are flagrantly ignored. This and other facts have proved once again the Georgian government’s intention to fully dominate the labour relationships both in public and private sectors and also establish control over human rights NGOs.

Throughout the country and in all spheres of economy, trade union activities are under total persecution. The Government does not shy away even from arresting o trade union leaders and shamefully justifies any action of capital owners and investors, while treating them as something super human and messianic.

While acknowledging our respect towards every honest entrepreneur and employer, we at the same time declare that building a democratic and just State will remain a wishful thinking until human rights are not fully respected and a strong middle class is not established.

Against the background of economic and social policy carried out by our Authorities, there is no chance, whatsoever, to establish and strengthen a middle class in Georgia. We are witnessing, on a regular basis, how the Government is taking out money from the pockets of its own citizens through ongoing raising of prices on transportation, water, uniting fees for waste management and electricity, selling out secondary schools, turning kindergartens into commercial entities, permanent skyrocketing of prices on food staff, artificially keeping high prices on petrol fuel and ever increasing amount of foreign debt etc.

In spite of regular contacts with the civilized world and the respective governments, instead of embracing the European model, the Georgian Government introduces and establishes models cultivated by underdeveloped and totalitarian states and the idea of “Singaporisation” of our country is a show case of the aforementioned. A country, whose political system is very far away from being a democratic one, cannot be attractive for those counties, who have healthy ambitions to become an integral part of the European family. If the Government takes a look at migration map of the Georgian population, it will easily identify that our citizens are moving towards the opposite directions of Singapore and Asian countries, they are just striving for the Euro-Atlantic space. In their choice they are attracted not only by economic success of those countries, but also by their way of life, democratic government, humane and solidarity based attitude towards both employed and unemployed people.

Today, celebrating Georgian Day of Labour, we express our firm protest toward faulty economic and social policy carried out by the Georgian government and demand :

• Stop persecution of trade unionists, blackmail of their leaders, hindering the process of unionization of workers and creation of proper working conditions.

• Stop the defamatory campaigns directed against human rights NGOs and their discredit.

• Stop flagrant intervention on the part of law enforcers into private labour relations and gross and violent violation of constitutionally guaranteed right to strike

• Allow representatives of trade unions and civil society to participate in the process of defining social and economic policy in order to make sure that the population can afford to pay for their consumer goods and basic services like healthcare, utility services, transport etc.

• The Authorities must elaborate an employment policy and social safety net for the unemployed.

• Stop the process of privatization of secondary schools and the kindergartens must be fully financed by municipalities, since the population already pays high income tax for those services.

• Education fees in high institutions must affordable and the students must be allowed to take part in the decision making process on the issue.

• Review the shamefully small amount of money, envisaged by the law adopted in 2006, for women on maternity leave, because it is deprived of any common sense and social justice and has been depreciated by at least 60% through high inflation rate.

• Stop large scale persecution of medical personnel and their massive dismissal from work. Clear and effective employment scheme for medical personnel must be elaborated.

• Teachers must be liberated from the state diktat and all the pedagogues must be provided with equal and sufficient opportunity for professional development, to raise salaries in the education sector, which is one of the lowest in the country.

• Change pension and compensation system for those workers, who work in hard and dangerous working conditions.

• State Commission for social dialogue must start implementing its functions and turn into an effective organ for settlement of labour disputes.

• We demand that changes are introduced to the current Georgian labour legislation, which has been criticized by the civilized world and absolute majority of Georgian population on many occasions. In order to guarantee that people of Georgia can live and work quietly, to fully realize rights endowed by God and laws for the sake of their own families and country, the Government must demonstrate full respect for civil, political and social-economic rights envisaged in many conventions adopted by the UN and other international organizations.

Adopted at the manifestation, on October 1, 2011