First University Clinic must end union-busting and address nurses’ grievances

8 Jun, 2022

The Fair Labor Platform expresses its solidarity with nurses who are organizing to fight for decent pay and better working conditions at First University Clinic and condemns recent union-busting efforts by their employer.

Nurses and other medical staff at the First University Clinic formed the Primary Solidarity Network Trade Union in May 2022, with the goal of uniting workers to fight for better wages and improved working conditions. But clinic administrators have since responded by harassing and intimidating employees who engage in union activities and/or express interest in joining the union.

Union busting at First University Clinic has taken several forms, including:

  • Administrators refusing to send union membership applications to the payroll department, thus preventing the union from adding new members and collecting membership fees;
  • Pressuring individual employees who wish to join the trade union, including by pointing out perceived “negative” consequences of joining a union;
  • Making verbal promises to improve working conditions in exchange for employees not joining the trade union.

Currently, the average hourly wage for nurses in the clinic is 2.73 GEL, which is four times less than the living wage in Georgia, which according to international calculations is equal to 11.5 GEL per hour.

The issue of low pay for nurses and other medical workers unfortunately goes beyond First University Clinic. According to a study by the Independent Trade Union-Solidarity Network, the average salary of nurses in Georgia ranges from 250 GEL to 508 GEL.

During the pandemic, the government attempted to temporarily alleviate the low wages and difficult conditions of health workers through a system of state wage supplements. The system required that institutions pay medical workers involved in Covid-19 management no less than 3 GEL per hour for nurses and 1.5 GEL per hour for other workers. However, with the end of the Covid pandemic in Georgia, the payment of salary supplements was stopped, despite the fact that the workload for nurses has not substantially decreased.

Against this background of extremely low wages and unbearable working conditions, collective action remains the best option for workers to improve their situation. The disruption of workers’ organizing efforts amounts to union busting. It is also a violation of the nurses’ right to freedom of association under Georgia’s labor code.

The Fair Labor Platform expresses solidarity with the nurses’ trade union struggle and calls for:

  • The Labor Inspectorate to inspect the First University Clinic and to prevent interference with workers’ freedom of association;
  • The administration of the First University Clinic to stop harassing and intimidating workers in response to their trade union activities;
  • The administration of the First University Clinic to review the remuneration policy for medical staff and to bring it closer to a living wage.

Fair Labor Platform member organizations:

  • Trade Union of Health and Services – “Solidarity Network”;
  • Social Justice Center;
  • Union of Social Workers;
  • Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA);
  • Tbilisi Metro Independent Trade Union – “Ertoba 2013”;
  • New Confederation of Trade Unions (NCIU).
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