Strike Tide Smells of Sabotage
01 November, 2012
Strike Tide Smells of Sabotage

The upsurge of strike tide that splashed all over Georgia since mid-October up to these days smells of sabotage. New Georgian government had not been even approved by October 15, 2012 when the flood of social discontent instigated by about 3700 miners at Georgian Manganese, a manganese exploration and extraction company operating in Chiatura  deluged the entire country.

Miners from Tkibuli coal mines supported Chiatura immediately. Workers of IDS Borjomi International [bottling Borjomi mineral water], mechanics of the depot of the state

owned Georgian Railway and workers of Poti Port [the Black Sea outlet of Georgia] as well as vehicle drivers employed at transit cargos transportation firms based in Poti, went on strikes on October 23, October 24 and October 25 respectively. All strikers’ demands with slight differentiations converged in key social-care package: increase of salary, safer working environment, proper medical insurance, longer vacancy and proper labor contracts.

And although railway and port workers as well as Borjomi resumed working by today very likely more rallies and protestation pickets loom in the prospect.

Workers of ferrous-alloy producing factory in Zestaponi, owned by Georgian Manganese as well, and Poti Port workers plan a large-scale protestation action starting November 1st if their requirements are not met.

Involuntarily Displaced People (IDPs), seeking for decent shelter for more than a decade and ignored by the ex-ruling power, occupied some empty buildings.

The new government formed by Georgian Dream coalition that was approved on October 25 against the backdrop of boiling protestation passions, promised to start working on all problems including the new labor code as soon as possible. However, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the new Prime Minister of Georgia, became wary of sabotage.

“I did not expect striking of GR employees. I do not rule out that there was certain sabotage for salaries there are much higher than in other sectors, however we should discuss this issue too,” Ivanishvili said.

The salaries at GR [that is one of the most prosperous Georgian enterprises contributing roughly GEL 100 million in tax to the state budget yearly] range between GEL 900 to 2500 while the average payment of miners at Chiatura Manganese is GEL 300-400.

Demur Giorkhelidze, an economic expert, finds the protestation upsurge natural for people been under bondage during 8 years and expects only positive results.

“Owners of big business like the companies where strikes were staged enjoyed huge benefits for many years. Now they should stop been pigs and go on concessions until the promised legislation changes come true,” he said adding that the strikes at key strategic enterprises may bring no harm to Georgian economy as it is already stagnated.

Part of Georgian economic analysts share Ivanishvili’s suspicion. They discern quite explicit private interests of the ex-ruling party of National Movement as well as the United Trade Union of Georgia (UTUG) behind the protestation wave and send signals of alert.

Ditrikh Muller, an economic analyst at Georgian Investment Group, believes this protests looks like urging a willing horse as much as new government acknowledges all the problems put out during strikes completely and promises to solve them through legal means as there is no other way of solution. He thinks this is a well-organized sabotage and the ex-ruling National Movement is the author of the scenario most probably.

“If we zoom in the picture closer, a large part of the social discontent has no ground. GR and Borjomi for example where employees have really better salaries and working conditions unlike miners who work under bondage really of which I spoke in 2007 but the trade union that organized all these strikes now and that is an arm group of Nationals I believe did not take any notice then. Now they speak of 100% of growth in salaries that is completely unrealistic and provocative demand. Besides, the scheme of IDPs storming into new buildings seem quite suspicious - how did they learn where those empty buildings were located and took them over in a very organized way just over-night? I believe Nationals stand behind all these alleged discontent tide.  They still have levers at these striking enterprises as owners of these companies are from the National’s circle. GR is the state controlled and the National’s personnel still work there. Take into account that GR went on strike as soon as Irakli Ezugbaia, Head of GR, stepped down and there is no responsible body to handle with problems until a new head is assigned.  Nationals want to plunge the country in instability so as to have grounds in six month to demand retirement of the new government, they have said quite openly that this is a short-term government,” Muller said to Georgian Journal.

Muller advises strikers to press on legal keys within companies rather than go striking for if protests keep on too long this may lead companies to bankruptcy and  people will lose jobs altogether.

“Changes in law cannot be done instantly, people should realize this and abstain from blocking railway as well as port that are of strategic importance to the country’s transit potential, investors and cargo forwarders are very sensitive to such instability and they will bypass Georgia until the situation clears. Strikers should press on legal keys within companies and demand revision of contracts and so forth through trade unions without interruption working process,” Muller elaborated.

Paata Sheshelidze, President of New Economic School, also thinks the underway protestation tide is an obvious sabotage and violation of rights of proprietors and the issue should be solved through legal means.

“I think the trade union wants to accentuate on the importance of their role on the one hand. On the other hand all the problems the protest is derived from the defects of the previous government, they are responsible for bondage contract terms with private companies as well as for labor contracts and the issue should be solved on the legal level. Strikes violate rights of proprietors, nobody has a right to block the railway and roads and do harm to  companies who own or use the said infrastructure, these protestations must be stopped instantly,” Sheshelidze stated.

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