Public Defender Expresses Support to Miners on Strike in Chiatura

The Public Defender of Georgia met with the miners of LLC Georgian Manganese, who have gone on strike, and representatives of the company in Chiatura on 25 May 2019.

The information provided by the strikers indicates poor working conditions and grave ecological situation in the municipality. The Public Defender expresses her support to the strikers and considers that the company should take into consideration and satisfy the fair demands of the miners through the active involvement of state agencies. The Public Defender of Georgia expressed her position at the meeting with the representatives of the company as well.

The Public Defender of Georgia underlines that it is essential to protect labour rights and provide safe and healthy working environment in order to ensure decent working environment, sustainable economic growth and productive employment.

The miners accused the company of degrading and life-threatening treatment. Particular attention should be paid to the miners who work for 12 hours for 15 days in a row, meaning that they have to work 84 hours a week, which is 48 hours more than the statutory 36-hour workweek. However, this overtime work is not remunerated by the company. In addition, the miners working in the above-mentioned regime, are placed in a sanatorium specially arranged for them for these 15 days. As a result, they are not able to freely enjoy even the 12-hour break between their working hours in order to properly balance their professional, family and personal liabilities and to avoid the work-related stress and tiredness. It is important that miners be provided with decent payment and maximum health care given the gravity of their work and its influence on their physical condition.

As of today, relations between the company and its employees are tensed and the strikers are applying extreme forms of protest, including hunger. Taking into consideration the situation, it is important the company to refrain from taking rigid measures against the employees and not to try to punish them even through legal means. In addition, the Public Defender considers it necessary that the work performed by the miners before the strike be fully paid.

For the purpose of protecting the workers' rights and providing proper working conditions, the Public Defender calls on the Ministry of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs to encourage the resumption of negotiations and mediation process between the parties, select a mediator enjoying the high trust of miners and conduct a result-oriented process of mediation on the one hand and to use all available means to fully inspect the protection of safety norms in the Georgian Manganese facilities and take effective measures for elimination of violations on the other hand. In addition, the Public Defender is hopeful that the company will fully cooperate with the state agency during the process of supervision of safety and other norms of the labour law.

It should be noted that one of the reasons of the miners and local population’s concern is the grave ecological situation caused by the company's activities in the municipality. Violation of the environmental legislation by the company over the years has ultimately aggravated the situation in terms of river and soil pollution and degradation, as a result of which, the municipality faces ecological disaster. The Public Defender has been indicating the mentioned problem in the parliamentary reports over the years.

In addition, the illegal actions of the company over the years forced the state to appoint a special manager in the company through the court and the period from 2017 to 2019 was determined as the term for fulfilling the special manager's 14-point action plan. The Public Defender takes into consideration the importance of continuous working process, although opposes the neglect of legislation and licence/permit requirements, the right of locals to live in a healthy environment and violation of the labour rights of the employees.

Therefore, the Public Defender urges the responsible agencies to immediately assess the timely/quality implementation of the action plan by the special manager; at the same time, it is necessary to inform locals and the broader public of the results achieved and the measures taken. For her part, the Public Defender will continue to supervise the legality and effectiveness of the measures taken in this direction.

The Public Defender of Georgia expresses full readiness to play a positive role in ensuring the protection of human rights in the process of communication between the strikers and the company.

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