Union’s victory in Poti

The leaseholder company of the port in the city of Poti, “B&P”, worker strike ended after four days, on 24th of November, with positive results for the strikers. The local union has received a written assurance from the company administrators that all of their requests will be met. From 1st to 10th of January, all of the workers at “B&P” will receive permanent contracts, and within the timeframe of 1st of December to 1st of June a collective agreement, with inclusion of pay raises, will be formed and signed.

Although we have been successful in our endeavors, the process was long and time consuming. The “B&P” workers formed a trade union on the 6th of October, 2013, where about a 150 workers joined. Since the GTUC has a strong presence in Poti, both with sectoral branch unions and a regional office, it gave the workers of “B&P” enough motivation to unionize. In the beginning of October, they joined into the union umbrella through becoming members of The Georgian Transportation and Road Workers Trade Union, and started fighting for their labor rights. They created a list of requests and sent it to the administration for consideration.

The trade union representatives sent out special letters to the Ministry of Health, labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, informing them of the terrible labor and social conditions of the “B&P” workers.

These letters also requested that the government provide a mediator and allow the union technical and safety inspector on the premise in order to analyze the labor conditions in person.

The ministry designated a special representative, who visited Poti on the 6th of November, 2013, and called on the administration to come to an agreement with the workers. Instead of negotiations however, the management of “B&P” didn’t see the reason as to why a third party had to be involved and requested that the union lawyer and the union representative not be admitted to the meeting that was to be held 9 days from the mediator’s arrival, on 15th of November. This meeting never took place since the collective refused the management’s proposition and gave the management another 5 days to come to the bargaining table.

Lavrenti Alania, chairman of the Georgian Transport and Road Workers Union who was directly involved in these developments, stated that in the beginning it was the B&P administration that initiated the meeting with the union that took place at the Tbilisi office of the company. However after the meeting, the representatives of the management started to pressure the workers and warned them not to unionize or cooperate with the trade union.

Despite these advances, on 20th of November, the “B&P” employees went on strike. In the beginning, 2 brigades of workers, around 160 employees of the company, went on strike. On the second day, a third brigade joined in and on the fourth day a full scale strike was in effect at the company. The employees demanded that the management reconsider pay rates, increase tariffs, provide them with a full medical insurance package, settle the problems with labor safety and meal provision, and improve the sanitary-hygienic situation at the workplace.

In accordance to the law, the employer was given 21 days to comply with these requests. The trade union representatives addressed the prosecutor’s office with a request to investigate the company directors, who were violating the law in regards to worker’s rights, violating the Georgian Constitution, Labor Code and international labor laws.

In the end, the strike was successful and ended on the 24th of November when the workers returned to their positions of work. The “B&P” Company is currently working in full effect. The employees expect that the promises from the administration will be fulfilled.