Labor Code and Civil Service Reform
07 February, 2013
The current labor code was designed for employers and gives very few - almost no - rights to workers. The idea was that any rights to workers would be to the disadvantage of employers, and would discourage them from hiring. There is some logic to this. In several places in the world, most famously in parts of Western Europe and the Arab world, it is so administratively burdensome to fire workers, that businesses worry a great deal about hiring new
people. For a country that has so many people without jobs, this is a real danger for Georgia.

The American attitude tends to be more employer friendly than the European attitude which is more worker friendly. For that reason (and some others), the US tends to have fewer people out of work than Western Europe. The American attitude is that employers or owners know what they need and should have the right to hire and fire at will. But there are other focuses of labor law. In most of America, the right to join unions is guaranteed, and most will admit that Georgia's previous government actively prevented people from collective organizing and joining unions. Also US worker safety laws are very strict. Yet even in Georgia's new draft law, worker safety is not addressed well. Workers should never be required to be in danger in order to keep their jobs and this happens frequently in Georgia now.

At the same time, in the birzha and in the press, there is discussion about all the firings happening in state entities. Some ministries, Legal Entities of Public Law (LEPLs), and local government entities are firing a great number of people, some are firing fewer. The previous government never really had a comprehensive set of rules for the civil service, and never passed civil service reform. They simply couldn't agree. On the one hand, they had a general libertarian ideological view that the government should employ as few people as possible, but at the same time realized the political value of being able to hand out jobs. Towards the end they even set up Ministry of Jobs, certainly a strange move for those who used the language of libertarianism. What is needed now is for there to be a comprehensive view on how many government employees there can be and when and how they can be hired and by who.

This is not an easy question for a government. The old government fired everybody and brought in their friends. In many cases they brought in good people, in other cases the people they brought in should not have been given jobs. The same thing is happening now and it is natural without a set of rules to prevent it. It was very similar to the situation with judges. Before all the judges were replaced by the previous government, they constantly talked about corruption in the judiciary. After they had replaced every single one, at precisely that point they started talking about judicial independence.
In the end the new draft employment law is written thinking of big businesses. It is small businesses and very small businesses that will employ most people in Georgia and an overly strict labor law will discourage small businesses from starting and will discourage them from hiring people they aren't related to, people who may later take them to court. In fact the whole concept of labor law is focused towards large employers, factories and that sort of thing, of which there are few in Georgia.
People get things other than money from jobs. It is common for people to work for free or even to pay for internships at banks or some other types of businesses simply so they can get some experience. Much higher education around the world has little to do with what you actually need on the job. A labor law should be flexible related to learning on the job.

The need to create jobs is important. Not so important that workers should have no rights, but we need to think carefully of small business owners, those with only one, three, or five employees. They are the ones that need the most help. Those who will pass this new law, who are they representing? If they pass this new restrictive labor law, who will say "we got what we want"? Certainly lawyers that will be able to represent unhappy workers will be happy about it. If there are fewer jobs afterwards, or less competitive hiring, nobody will be able to trace it back to this. Proceed carefully.