Tbilisi condemns Georgians to unemployment29.10.2010 | 16:57
Georgia regularly reports on staff cleansings. Recently Kakha Kukava of the opposition made a statement on mass redundancies. The lists of forced idlers are replenished with Tbilisi mayor's office employees, pension-age kindergarten teachers, school teachers and policemen. Half of the able-bodied population of the capital is already sitting at home. Presently Tbilisi is the most unemployed capital in the former Soviet Union.
Kakha Kukava calls Tbilisi a city of the unemployed. His Conservative Party is making lists of former public employees who recently lost their jobs. However, the number of administrative workers in the capital is scanty in comparison with the number of dismissed teachers. The campaign of employment layoffs began in summer and is still underway.
Trade Unions estimate nearly 25,000 teachers left jobless in Georgia. Upon completion of this large-scale action the army of the unemployed in Tbilisi will be 10-15 thousand stronger.
Tbilisi is a big and expensive place. Hundreds of thousands of its citizens know what it's like to survive in this city jobless throughout the 6-year epoch of Saakashvili.
Manana Ubiria is one of these "veterans". Job search is lifework for her. She has hated the president of Georgia since 2005 when her department in the statistical service was closed down completely. No connections or scheming, if ventured, were of any help. Manana knew well what should be done for promotion. But she found herself at a loss with the office on closure. Our protagonist is a typical middle-aged unemployed person in Tbilisi who likes attending opposition demonstrations. People like her take to politics out of idleness.
Tbilisi has no vacancy market in the contemporary sense of the word. Even now Manana is trying to find a job in a traditional Georgian way - through acquaintances. Through her childhood friend this time. They used to play in Tbilisi yards together, and now he is an executive in a big company. While she is browsing the social network for her well-off acquaintance, her sister that lives in America and bakes pies for Soviet emigrants in Brooklyn sends her monthly allowance.
The nation-wide campaign of dismissing teachers sounds promising - "an education reform". Mass dismissals of school teachers are the largest staff cleansings in state-finance organizations. According to the Education League of Georgia the number of the laid-off will reach 20-25 thousand persons. Teachers were given notices from the Education Ministry of Georgia that they might be dismissed in view of staff reduction. At least 9 Tbilisi schools faced teacher dismissals with many of teachers now suing the ministry. In Eastern Georgia court proceedings by fired teachers are in progress. On October 25 Telavi teachers won such a suit.
No one in the country can tell an approximate number of state employees dismissed over Saakashvili presidency. The president himself stated with pride that during his term in office 150 thousand policemen, tax and customs officers were made redundant "as part of the anti-corruption campaign". These 25,000 teachers will soon join in. Are they corrupt too?
The education reform is carried out in a low-key manner, it seems. Like there are no dismissals. Dmitry Shashkin, education minister of Georgia, stated that the country's schools don't face layoffs. He is right. Dismissals are verbal without unnecessary legal formalities to avoid paying compensations otherwise. The budget won't handle that.
Zurab Nogaideli, an opposition leader, says that "the education reform" is pure politics. According to him, only teachers who voted for the opposition at the latest election were fired. If his words are fair, every third teacher will be dismissed in Georgia.
However, there are more reasons for the school war lying on the surface. In an interview with GeorgiaTimes politologist Soso Tsiskarishvili reminded that in 2010 the two-year period when Georgia was receiving significant financial aid from the European Union and the States will expire. With this money the world community was "healing" Georgia from consequences of the war in 2008. The money was spent on provision of a relatively dignified life in the country during the review period.
January 1, 2011 will be the beginning of a new life, without this money. Now, as Tsiskarishvili thinks, it's the high time to "pull in belts". Cutting global projects like, for instance, construction of a 552 m bridge in Anaklia, is not in the style of the country leaders. So the only way get thrifty is take money of state employees. Primarily teachers, the most numerous group.
New Georgia is a country for people under 40. Those who were unlucky to go to college in the Soviet era most probably are unemployed. Darejan Chikhladze is one of the ill-starred. She lost her job four years ago. Now her life is a circulation between Tbilisi and the village where her children live.
"We had to move back to my father's home for land. I work as a child-carer. My monthly salary is USD 100. The money is enough for clothes and travel. In the village we have everything", - Darejan says. Gastronomic abundance in rural style is home-made bread and beans according to Darejan.