The path full of struggles for the Trade Union of Self-Employed Workers in Georgia

Georgia (country in the Caucasus situated at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe)

In April of 2013, the Gori (city in eastern Georgia) region’s attorney at law, Kakha Kalmakhelidze informed the Trade Union of Self Employed and Commercial Sector Workers of Georgia – affiliated to the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) – that bazaar employees (the bazaar has around 1500 employees overall) were requesting the help of the union. The next day the union prepared an organising event and traveled to the bazaar. The union representatives actively carried out a campaign by holding 4 meetings, two of which were at the workplace of the activists and two at the GTUC office in Gori city.

In May of 2013, a meeting was organised which was attended by 14 individuals and resulted in creation of the Gori Central Bazaar primary union organisation. The main problem of these workers was the government’s attempt to move the bazaar from the central location in the city to the suburbs. The sectorial branch began negotiations with the local administration and met with the majority representative, Soso Vakhtangishvili. Through the efforts of the Trade Union of Self Employed and Commercial Sector Workers of Georgia and the unwavering support and solidarity of the workers, a compromise was reached in the form of an agreement that the bazaar would remain at the current location until January 20th of 2014. Despite using all of the strengths that the union possesses, the union was unable to unionise 100% of the bazaar employees. Only 80 merchants of the 1500 joined the Trade Union of Self Employed and Commercial Sector Workers of Georgia.

In December of 2013, these unionised individuals refused to pay membership fees and officially left the union; however, in January of 2014 they addressed the Gori office’s lawyer, Kakha Kalmakhelidze with request for help. The union again became actively involved in the problems facing these workers and set up meetings with the majority representative of Gori, Soso Vakhtangishvili and the Inner Qartli Governor Zurab Rusishvili in an effort to protect their worker interests, but this yielded minimal results and we requested a meeting with the investor who sponsored this project. The investor was stern in his demand to close the bazaar and move the workers to the newly constructed complex in the suburbs. The union used every tool at its disposal with no effect. The merchants were forced out and the central bazaar was closed. The merchants are refusing to move to the complex and in an effort to protest have found refuge in smaller bazaar installations at the center of Gori.

The union has executed 5 organising meetings from the 14th of January to date and have been joined by the Gori Station transportation workers since the investor decided to move the station to the same complex territory. The union is planning a large meeting with the representatives of these two branches in order to solve the situation. It is hoped to help these people defend their rights and through these developments support creation of a powerful trade union in Gori.

Sourced from Georgian Trade Unions Confederation – http://gtuc.ge/eng/?p=281