Based on the complaints of the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation, the Public Defender addressed the labour inspection with a general proposal
19 / 09 / 2023
During the last two years, Georgian Trade Unions Confederation have addressed to the public defender with a number of complaints regarding the anti-union activities of the employers, which were expressed by various actions of different employers, during collective labour disputes. For example, individual cases of non-acceptance of the trade union looked like this:
1.. In parallel with the mediation of the collective labor dispute and the protest actions, the Center for the Coordination of Emergency Situations and Emergency Assistance, unilaterally and ignoring the demands of the employees (ambulance doctors and drivers), made a change in the bylaws regarding the overtime pay rate, which, among other things, was the subject of negotiations; After the expiration of the mediation period, the company held a meeting with the employees without informing the trade union and all the employees about the same issues that were the subject of the mediation; The Center was pressuring the workers to leave the union membership and the planned strike should not be large-scale. With all the mentioned, the center neglected the principles of social partnership and dialogue; In addition, the center refused to change shifts to one of the most active members of the trade union, Nugzar Nemsitsveridze, to participate in the protest action planned by the trade union, while changing shifts is an accepted practice at the center.
2. “Evolution Georgia” LLC refused to cooperate with the trade union of agriculture, trade and industry (“Labor”) and “EVO-Union” for a long time; He was delaying the meeting; Active members of the trade union in the service group were restricted from publishing trade union-related statuses; The company responded to the appeal sent by the trade union about problems at the workplace with a request to deny the defamation; expressed an ironic and humiliating attitude towards the trade union; filed a groundless complaint with the police; created a hostile work environment for the members of the trade union at the workplace; In response to a critical report broadcast on television, insulting comments about the chairman of the trade union and active members of the trade union were spread on social networks, including one of the persons in the managerial position of “Evolution Georgia” LLC spread misinformation about the chairman of the trade union in order to discredit him, and another person, in the managerial position to the member of the trade union committee, forbade verbal contact with him; From the side of persons in a managerial position, derisive comments towards the employees who are members of the trade union continue to be heard verbally; “Evolution Georgia” LLC does not allow an employee who is a member of the trade union to attend an individual meeting with the employer as a member of the trade union committee as the employee’s legal representative; Union members have a perception that their employer has special control over them.
3. “Sairme Mineral Waters” LLC did not compensate the employees who are members of the agricultural, trade and industry trade union participating in the ongoing mediation and strike with the demand for improvement of working conditions, which put them in a difficult social situation due to bank obligations. The same method was used to pressure the striking employees of “Idees Borjomi Georgia” LLC in 2022. During the mediation process, “Sairme Mineral Waters” LLC imposed disciplinary measures on some of the employees; The employer responded late to the appeal sent by the trade union regarding the holding of negotiations before the strike, which indicated the dishonest delay of the meeting, and later, as a precondition for participation in the negotiations, it stated that the meeting should be held without the chairman of the trade union; The company publicly stated the position that the chairman of the trade union of agriculture, trade and industry was not trying to protect the interests of the employees, but his own interests, while the employees confirmed to the public defender that it was through joining the trade union and the trade union that they were able to enjoy such basic labor rights as: vacation, sick leave etc., they wanted to participate in the negotiations as representatives of the trade union because they did not have knowledge of legal issues and did not trust the employer; In order to stop the strike, the employer also published vacancies at the workplaces of the strikers.
The public defender took into account the experience of the trade unions, that “the employer has an inadmissibility towards the trade union, because he believes that a third person interferes between him and the employee and that the opportunity to make decisions alone is missed. That is why the employer persistently tries not to strengthen the trade union. Strengthening is primarily manifested by the increase in the number of members. That is why the employer is especially focused on actions that will discourage the desire to join. The fewer members a trade union has, the less accountable it becomes to the employer.”
Based on the described circumstances, the Public Defender believes that the developed events clearly highlight the challenges the trade union faces in protecting the laboუr and socio-economic rights of its members.
In addition, the Public Defender evaluates the actions of employers as encouraging discrimination based on trade union membership, strengthening negative stereotypes about the trade union, or promoting the creation of such an environment that may lead to the restriction of the rights of trade union members on discriminatory grounds.
Based on the legislation of Georgia and international agreements, the Public Defender explains that employers are obliged to conduct negotiations on labor and socio-economic issues with the trade union, and the employer is also responsible for creating the necessary conditions for the trade union’s activities. In addition, it is forbidden, when the trade union conducts a strike or other protest action in compliance with the law, to suppress it in any way form response. The Public Defender invokes the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and points out that “states should not only allow, but also practically make it possible for trade unions to implement collective measures; The right of the trade union to be heard and to have the opportunity to act to protect the interests of its members must be ensured. In this regard, the obligation of public agencies to actively encourage the culture of dialogue and negotiations in the field of economy is emphasized. The European Court of Human Rights considers the implementation of such actions in response to a strike or actions taken to protect the interests of trade union members, which may have a detrimental effect on trade union members or those wishing to join it, incompatible with freedom of association. The court takes into account various techniques used by employers that may have a negative effect on the rights to carry out trade union activities and engage in collective bargaining, including actions that prevent trade unions from retaining members or attracting new members (for example, due to fear of potential discrimination); which reduces the representative nature of the trade union.”
Therefore, the Public Defender made a general proposal to the Advisory Board of the Labor Inspection Service within 20 days:
➢ Develop recommendations aimed at the proper protection of collective labor rights and prevention of discrimination based on trade union membership, which include, among others, from the side of the labor inspectorate:
Georgian Trade Unions Organization, both with employers and state bodies in a number of formats of dialogue and cooperation, emphasizes the necessity of negotiations and social partnership in order to prevent collective labour disputes and welcomes the general suggestion of the Public Defender that the Labor Inspection Service should provide special supervision over the effective use of collective labor rights.
Lawyer of the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation, Tamila Gabaidze defended the interests of the trade union and trade union members in the ongoing cases in the public defender’s office.