The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) became a member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) became a member of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). In connection with the issue, Esther Lynch, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) visited Georgia.

The leader of the European trade unions met with the Minister of IDPs, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, representatives of trade unions and workers. Later, she held a special press conference for journalists together with Irakli Petriashvili, President of the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC).

Irakli Petriashvili, GTUC President, who held the position of the President of the Pan-European Regional Council for eight years in the international trade union family and for years advocated for protection and strengthening of workers’ rights not only in Georgia, but also in the world, explained the importance of the issue for Georgian workers, especially in the situation, when Georgia is still waiting for EU membership.

“I would like to congratulate not only trade union members, but also our country as a whole, people of our country, on the important decision made in Brussels regarding the affiliation of Georgian Trade Unions Confederation. In fact, this is an unprecedented decision because the European Trade Union Confederation unites the trade unions of the EU member states. The joining of the GTUC in this common family means that voice of each worker, challenge of each worker becomes challenge of this big European family, which has very close and significant relations with all structures of the European Union. Whatever path European workers have taken, those experiences will be shared and implemented in Georgia. Georgian trade unions have been advocating for a number of issues, such as minimum wage, unemployment benefits, pension reform, social dialogue, labour safety, informal employment, etc. All this now also becomes challenge and priority for this big and strong family. If, under the conditions it was in, the GTUC managed to achieve changes to the Labour Code, restoration of the Labour Inspection and they have achievements in various directions, naturally, together with the ETUC, more attention will be paid to these issues. Today’s meeting with the Minister of IDPs, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia was a proof of this. In the near future, you will already see topics regarding which people of Georgia will have the opportunity to breath more easily in the environment under which they had to work. Also, we will share very good experiences regarding courts, such as the examples of Ireland and Slovenia, so that the population of Georgia does not have to spend years in courts in connection with labour disputes. Though, minimum wage is a priority for me and we will achieve it!” – said Irakli Petriashvili.

 

ETUC General Secretary Esther Lynch emphasized the importance of accepting GTUC into their family. Among other things, she noted that these changes will help the GTUC in effective advocacy of all the issues that it has been putting on the agenda for years and which now represent recommendations that Georgia has to fulfill in the process of European integration.

“It is very important that the voice of Georgian workers is heard everywhere in the halls and rooms where decisions, that will affect Georgian workers, are made. According to the European Union Treaty, the European Trade Union Confederation is considered to be the main organization where the voice of workers should be heard in relation to all issues related to them. This covers all issues, including gender inequality, workplace safety, minimum wage. In other words, all issues that concern labour relations are resolved in this organization. It is very important that Georgian workers are represented around the table where such important issues are decided. Also, it is important that it is when there is solidarity among workers, the decision is made that will improve their situation. Within the framework of this visit, my goal was to find out from the GTUC on the ground how their activities are in line with the role defined in the European Union and European countries. Also, to a certain extent, to put pressure on the government so that it takes steps that ensure enforcement of workers’ rights. This especially applies to wages and conditions under which workers have to work.

We met Mikheil Sarjveladze, Minister of IDPs, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. We talked about how to improve workers’ conditions.  We came to the conclusion, and this was the message from the Minister, that improvement of workers’ conditions, including by virtue of the EU agreement, is possible only through social dialogue. During the meeting with the Minister, we emphasized the fact that the ETUC can be a very important supporting force in this process, as it has a lot of experience in working with other countries in the past. It is important for all of us to agree that it is necessary to help, facilitate and encourage the GTUC in every possible way in order to achieve results that are desired by everyone through this dialogue. Mikheil Sarjveladze is a lawyer by profession, I am also a lawyer, we had a rather interesting discussion about how we can bypass very long and, at the same time, rather expensive court processes, to reach a result that will be acceptable to everyone. It is very

important that these rights are not theoretical, but people actually have the opportunity to exercise them. Of course, this will give people more confidence.

We are a very large family of European trade unions, which includes more than 45 million workers. My function-duty is to give maximum support to the trade unions of the member states, including the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation. What matters is not just how good the law is, even if it’s about minimum wage or worker safety, but how well it is enforced in reality. This will be our main priority. I will talk about the Georgian Trade Unions with our partner organizations whom I will meet upon my return,” said Esther Lynch.

The ETUC is an organization that brings together the trade union organizations of the EU member states that are in full accord with the standards and criteria of the ETUC Constitution. For Georgia and Georgian workers, the membership of the trade union whose social partners are: European Union, European Commission, European Parliament means both obligations and new social guarantees and high standards, which should bring tangible positive results to the country and the country’s workforce.