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Labour Ultimatum for Georgia2009-07-16 14:13
The trade unions of Georgia have presented their draft amendments to the labour law. Upon agreeing them with the government and employers, at least some part of these amendments might be legalized by autumn. Otherwise Georgia will be expelled from the European system of trade preferences.
Like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, Georgia was struck by the news on its possible expulsion from the GSP+ trade mode. Not for trade violations, but for the discriminatory Labour Code. The trade unions have harped upon legal issues in this area since 2005, when the authorities were just going to introduce some liberal regulations into the Labour Code. They actually resulted liberal for employers but derogatory to the rights of employees.
The code passed in 2006 limited the possibilities of the state to interfere with the relations between employers and employees, letting them regulate their relations by themselves by way of labour contracts. Naturally, employers took advantage of this law, overriding such conquests of the world's trade union movement as an 8-hour working day, a yearly holiday lasting a month and overtime payment. Companies have stopped paying maternity allowances, have started signing short-term labour contracts in order not to pay any dismissal forfeit.
«United Trade Unions» have insisted on modifying the Labour Code for almost two years. «We are demanding the abolition of some new ugly articles of the Georgian Labour Code infringing the dignity of Georgian citizens, forced to look for employment and for the defense of their rights abroad. We are demanding a real 8-hour working day. We are demanding the employment of several dozens of thousands of the unemployed», said the Chairman of the Georgian Trade Union Association Irakly Petriashvili during the protest events.
He stated that, if more rigid regulations are set for employers, about 150 000 people could be employed. This would be very much to the point for a country in which, according to its statistic department, in 2008 the number of the unemployed reached almost 316 000 people, i.e. 16% of the working population.
The latest trade union meeting was held this February. As the opposition was preparing its April events extended to now, and Mikhail Saakashvili did not feel so cosy in his President's chair any longer, the government made some concessions. It let the trade unions develop their draft amendments and present them to the Parliament.
While they were working on the draft law, teachers also presented their claims regarding labour relations in the education area. They had got tired of uncertainty and of the arbitrary behaviour of school directors guided by the too liberal article of the Labour Code on contract termination. In protest teachers took some pink balloons and attached them to the fence of Mikhail Saakashvili's residency.
The Parliament minority treated the trade unions' demands with comprehension. The Christian Democrats party, in its turn, suggested «five substantial modifications» to the Labour Code. They were presented to the journalists by Magda Anikashvili, said GHN. The Christian Democrats' amendments implied, first of all, prohibition on unfounded dismissal of employees. Second, a dismissal forfeit of at least two monthly salaries. Third, a short-term contract with an employee can be signed only twice, and the third one must be a long-term one, i.e. for more than three months.