Georgia Fair Labor Platform supports Tbilisi metro workers demand for increased pay

29 Nov, 2022

The Fair Labor Platform supports the initiation of a collective labor dispute by the “Ertoba 2013” independent union of metro workers against the Tbilisi Transport Company and expresses solidarity with their demand for increased wages.

A meeting between the union and management to discuss the workers’ demands was scheduled for November 24, 2022, but management representatives did not show up. In response, Ertoba 2013 notified the Tbilisi Transport Company on November 29 that it had initiated a collective labor dispute and was demanding a 20% wage increase for employees. Yesterday, after hearing about the trade union’s plans to file a collective dispute, the company expressed its willingness to negotiate, but a meeting has yet to take place.

Under Georgian law, the declaration of a labor dispute is a required step before employees can go on strike. After the dispute is formally initiated, a 21-day mediation period begins. If the parties cannot reach an agreement that period, the employees will have the right to strike.

In summer 2018, Ertoba 2013 staged a successful strike that led to a gradual increase in metro workers’ salaries. Their wages today, however, are increasingly inadequate, particularly considering rising inflation, which has hit Georgian workers hard. The annual inflation rate for food and non-alcoholic beverages was 15.8% from October 2021 to October 2022, with the figure for some products such as bread, milk, eggs and cheese exceeding 22%.

The salary for most metro employees, such as controllers and checkpoint attendants, ranges from 700 GEL to 900 GEL. This is far below the official living wage estimate for Georgia, which currently stands at 1,770 GEL per month.

Metro workers have also cited the health risks they face in their jobs, which mostly involve working in harsh, underground environments.

It should also be noted that during the previous metro workers’ strike in 2018, the Tbilisi City Court suspended the employees’ right to strike for 30 days. After an agreement was still not reached, the Tbilisi court suspended the employees’ right to strike indefinitely. Both orders were issued without an oral hearing.

The legal norms underlying the city court’s decisions were subsequently challenged in a petition filed by the Social Justice Center on behalf of Ertoba 2013. On November 4, 2022, the Constitutional Court recognized their challenge as partly admissible – meaning that the court will review the constitutionality of the strike suspension procedures soon.

The Decent Labor Platform expresses its support for the metro employees, considers their demand for a 20% increase in wages to be fair, and calls on the management of the Tbilisi Transport Company to:

▪️Ensure genuine cooperation with independent trade unions, engage in good-faith and effective bargaining procedures with the unions and pay decent wages to Metro employees.

This statement is endorsed by the following member organizations of the Fair Labor Platform:

  • Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
  • Social Justice Center
  • Union of Social Workers
  • Trade Union of Healthcare and Service Sectors – “Solidarity Network”
  • Open Society Foundation Georgia
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