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LABOUR RIGHTS / Statement

EMC summarizes the results of metropolitan strike

In the morning of June 6, the strike of the employees of the metropolitan ended, which, for the first time in the history of the metro, has caused a total paralysis of its work.

The strike lasted for three days and was accompanied by the hunger strike, involving most of the train drivers and other employees of the metro. The strike was administered by the independent professional union of the metro employees called "Ertoba-2013", which has existed since 2013 and the members are mostly train drivers.

From the second day of the strike, direct negotiations began between the parties, and as a result, “Ertoba-2013” and the Tbilisi City Hall, have reached an agreement on the increase of wages from the beginning of 2019, which will include not only for the members of “Ertoba-2013”, but all employees of the metro. Although, the agreement does not accurately determine the percentage, there is a promise that it will not go beyond the margin agreed between the parties. It is problematic that the agreement is not in writing, which is a normal practice for the end of the strike. The existence of the oral agreement between the parties creates significant risks in terms of non-enforcement, especially when the majority of the written agreements made as a result of strikes or mediation, remain unfulfilled by employers. Thus, in the given circumstances, it is of particular importance that “Ertoba-2013” and other civilian groups monitor the execution of the promises issued by the City Hall and ensure subsequent response in case of non-execution.

Beyond the results, which should directly improve the financial position of the employees in the future, it is important to emphasize the uniqueness of the precedent of the strike and its importance in the recent history of the workers’ fight for their rights. This was the first strike in the experience of the metropolitan, which led to its full paralysis, thus making it clear that the workers hold decisive role and importance for the production and the work process. Paralyzing the work process has also neutralized the positions of employers, including of the Tbilisi City Hall, regarding the opinion that for the work process their will is the decisive factor and not that of the workers.

In addition to the uniqueness of the strike, the strike strategy used by the metro staff was also unprecedented; the workers managed to keep the strike completely within the limits set by the legislation and by the illegal judicial decisions, which has protected the legitimate nature of the strike and made the arguments by the Tbilisi City Hall, on its illegality and the possible legal responsibility of the organizers of the strike, groundless. In particular, following the order issued by the court, the strike began on June 3, instead of May 3 (initially the strike was postponed for 30 days) and following the second court ruling saying that the metro train drivers could only take part in the strike on holidays and other employees during working hours. As a result, metro was paralyzed due to the decreased health of the train drivers, which was caused by the use of the right to strike during holiday hours. As a result, “Ertoba-2013” has been able to fully enforce the court's illegal judgment, and stay within the law and achieve the aim of the strike action - full paralysis of the work process. At the same time, the process of strike acquired the special importance due to the support expressed by the public, the public defender, NGOs and activist groups.

At the same time, the strike, its contents, forms and scope played an important role in the process of lustration of the policy of the City Hall, which is not focused on the social and economic well-being of employees and created significant criticism among the public towards the labour and social policy existing in the country and the Tbilisi municipality. The illegal activities used against “Ertoba-2013” also made it clear that the State agencies and the judiciary were completely unaware of the importance of the strike and showed their likely unified action against the use of the right to strike.

EMC will monitor the execution of the promises made by the Mayor and will act together with “Ertoba-2013” in case the promises are not fulfilled. Moreover, EMC will continue to support the metro independent trade union, which represents the union of workers with a special history, experience and high bargaining power.

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