Firefighters on hunger strike in Georgia

February 24, 2014
Firefighter strike Georgia
Public Services International (PSI) and the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) fully support the protest action by the Tbilisi Firefighter-Rescuers Trade Union, affiliate of the Georgian Public Servants Trade Union (PSTUG). These workers risk their lives, but have no adequate equipment and are faced with daily abuse by their employer.

Update 25 Feb 2014: In response to a joint letter from PSI and EPSU, the First Deputy Minister of the Georgian Ministry of Labour has instructed the head of the Labour and Employment Policy department Paata Jorjoliani to investigate and keep all parties informed of the process for addressing the firefighters’ concerns.

According to Georgian law, strike action is forbidden for these workers and there is no mechanism for mediation or mandatory arbitration. Since only protest action is allowed, over sixty current and former employees gathered in front of the Emergency and Urgent Services’ administration building to protest for their rights, since 12th February 2014.

Some of the protesters started a hunger strike, which rapidly grew in number. By the ninth day, 16 workers had joined the action.

The protesters have presented the following demands:

  • Dismissal of the Director of the Emergency and Urgent Services Agency and investigation into the management’s decisions;
  • An end to persecution of elected union leaders and intimidation of union members;
  • Annulment of the termination of employment of the workers who have been fired on the basis of false accusations;
  • Improvement of working conditions and safety at work, including special uniforms and tools;
  • Stop regular practice of “kickbacks” to management;
  • Stop using the labour of fire-fighters and rescuers during working hours for private purposes by management;
  • Pay the 13th month and overtime pay that workers are entitled to.

Georgia has gone through a difficult reform process of the labour code in recent years. We call on the Georgian government to foresee effective instruments for conciliation and to create an appropriate dialogue platform for public service unions and the government – both at local and national level. The Tripartite Social Partnership Commission should be an effective platform for dialogue.

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