May 1 is International Workers’ Day, and each year it brings to life the memory of past struggles for labor rights. Beyond the historic gains of workers, which international labor protection regulations still rely on, it is important not to forget the challenges facing labor rights today as a result of an unjust political-economic system.
Working conditions in Georgia still fall short of international standards. The status of “working poor” has been normalized, and it is impossible for many workers to get ahead. Despite some improvements, workplace safety is not guaranteed – the rate of workplace injuries and deaths is still far too high. A massive number of workers earn their living in the informal sector, where they have virtually no legal and social protections. The fate of working women is worst of all: maternity pay is merely symbolic, work outside the family is underpaid, and work in the family is unpaid. All of this places a heavy burden on the brave and courageous women of our society, often pushing them to emigrate to other countries.
The numerous mass strikes organized in recent months are the result of failed economic policy, inflation and the rising cost of living. Doctors, app-based workers, employees of various enterprises and drivers have all taken to the streets to demand decent pay, normal working hours, and a respectful, dignified work environment.
Georgia’s minimum wage of 20 GEL per month has not been updated since 1999. This is despite 2022 data stating that a living wage should be at least 1,770 GEL.
The history of Labor Day and the self-sacrifice of workers in the past obliges us to continue the fight for a dignified life and well-being, in solidarity with others.
Come out and support workers’ rights this May Day!