It is not easy to have a constructive dialogue when the speakers do not hear one another. The result usually is confrontation, conflict and failure to conclude agreements.
However, for the first time since the Rose Revolution in 2003, the teachers of Georgia, represented by the Educators & Scientists Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG), and the Ministry of Education and Science had a shared experience that helped them to hear one another’s point of view. Together they attended a training session on pay and working conditions which was organised by Education International and supported by the Georgian office of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Over the course of three days, teachers, ministry officials and Deputy Ministers Irina Kurdadze and Maia Kopaleishvili, learned about the arrangements and procedures needed to establish bargaining structures to negotiate on issues like salaries, working conditions, allowances and how such machinery works.
The training seminar, entitled "Promoting Quality Education in Georgia through the Development and Maintenance of Good Industrial Relations between the Government, Teachers and Employers", was conducted by Barry Fawcett, former head of the negotiation team of the National Union of Teachers in the United Kingdom.
At the same time that the training seminar was taking place, the Georgian Trade Union Centre (GTUC) was having discussions with the Labour Ministry of Georgia and the Employers’ Association in order to ensure that the promises to reform the Labour Code which were made last year during the International Labour Conference in Geneva were in fact met. Because of the difficulties that workers and employers have in general in Georgia to find a compromise on a common agenda, the joint union-ministry training seminar was seen as very positive step in supporting workers rights, said Gocha Alexandria, Vice President of the GTUC.
Good industrial relations are not easy to achieve in Georgia. Unions, government and employers have never before had any experience in this challenging field. Nevertheless both parties, Ministry and ESFTUG, have committed themselves to going forward together, not only to ensure good negotiations but to meet the overall aim of Quality Education for All. In this sense, Manana Gurchumalidze, General Secretary of ESFTUG, stressed the efforts that the teachers’ union is making to organize the same kind of training for all of the regional and school representatives of ESFTUG.
Within the next few weeks, teachers and ministry officials will organise meetings to agree on how to continue the training of all education officers involved in this process, and to start the negotiation of procedures that need to be put in place to build a solid and constructive collective bargaining structures in Georgia.