The Georgia Fair Labor Platform is investigating mass layoffs at museums run by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, which appear to have targeted employees for their critical views and/or trade union membership.
On May 24, about 40 employees of a group of museums under the Ministry of Culture were notified that they would be dismissed from their jobs on June 1. Among those fired were 21 members of the newly established Science, Education and Culture Trade Union, including Nikoloz Tsikaridze, chairman of the trade union.
The official ground for the dismissals was the ongoing reorganization of the museum system. Within the framework of the reorganization, a special commission was set up to determine the competence of the staff of the National Museum, Simon Janashia State Museum, Shalva Amiranashvili State Museum of Art, Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery, and Sighnaghi Historical-Ethnographic Museum.
Trade unions, however, have pointed to shortcomings in the reorganization process, including bias and incompetence in the commission’s composition and opaque criteria for determining employee competence. They allege that the staff evaluation process has been arbitrary and is actually intended to clear out “undesirable” staff.
It should be emphasized that such staff purges are not new for the Ministry of Culture. Following the appointment of Tea Tsulukiani last year as the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, the Ministry undertook reorganization and systemic changes at various institutions under its purview. According to public data, up to 100 employees have been fired thus far from various agencies. Most of the dismissed employees have said that the reorganization process was opaque and that evaluators were not qualified to judge staff competence. In the case of the Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, for example, the interview process was conducted not by professionals in the field, but by close associates of Ministry leadership.
Another alarming trend is the intimidation and threatening rhetoric, including media statements about potential initiation of criminal proceedings, which the Minister of Culture has used to quell litigation and other forms of pushback.
The opacity and unfairness of the reorganization process became the catalyst for the recent creation of the Trade Union for Science, Education and Culture.
The member organizations of the Fair Labor Platform are currently investigating the legality of the dismissal and reorganization of staff from the museum system. If necessary, we will provide legal support to members of the Trade Union of Science, Education and Culture, in addition to protecting the labor rights of other persons employed in the Ministry of Culture.
Georgia Fair Labor Platform member organizations:
- Social Justice Center
- Union of Social Workers;
- Georgian Young Lawyers Association;
- Open Society Foundation;
- Trade Union of Health and Services – “Solidarity Network”;
- Tbilisi Metro Independent Trade Union – “Unity 2013”;
- New Union of Trade Unions (NCIU).