Despite the Georgian authorities’ stated commitment to respect trade union rights and the adoption of a legislative framework promoting collective bargaining, evidence is emerging that anti union initiatives continue unabated.
EI has written to Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili to request that the Government respects the rights of teachers to freedom of association, and to stop undermining the presence of EI’s affiliate member, the Educators and Scientists Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG), which represents 103 000 teachers. EI has also coordinated an international delegation to lobby governmental officials about the need to institutionalise social dialogue.
To this day, local education authorities continue to discriminate against members of EI’s affiliate and instead promote an employer-led, or ‘yellow’, teacher union. Nationally, in spite of legislation being passed on social dialogue, the Government has not yet engaged in any meaningful collective bargaining negotiations with ESFTUG.
EI has also been informed that on 8 June the regional offices of the Ministry of Education ordered school principals to stop the automatic transfer of trade union membership dues from ESFTUG members’ salaries to the ESFTUG bank accounts. This is despite an agreement signed between the Ministry of Education and ESFTUG in 1998 to permit the centralised payment of membership dues. The directive has already been implemented in a number of cities and regions and cities including: Chkhorotsku, Kaspi, Kharagauli, Khelvachauri, Khulo, Kobuleti, Kutaisi, Lagodekhi, Martvili, Mtstheta, Ozurgeti, Senaki, Tbilisi, and Zestafoni Vani.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) considers the stopping of trade union dues as running contrary to the guarantees provided for in Article 3 of the ILO Convention 87, which was ratified by Georgia in 1999. The ILO states that “the withdrawal of the check-off facility, which could lead to financial difficulties for trade union organisations, is not conducive to the development of harmonious industrial relations and should therefore be avoided.”
Since Georgian teachers will receive their salaries for the months of June, July and August at the end of June, the interruption to the automatic transfer of payments will lead to serious financial difficulties for ESFTUG and severely impede its ability to function.
EI is reminding Georgia’s Government of its obligation to respect trade union rights, as enshrined within Georgian and international legislation.
During the International Labour Conference in Geneva this month, the Committee on the Applications of the Standards “welcomed the steps taken by the Government [of Georgia] to institutionalise social dialogue in the country and urged the Government to intensify this dialogue.”
EI believes that social dialogue is a cornerstone of democracy and therefore will be pressing the Georgian authorities to immediately enter into negotiations with ESFTUG.