Population: 5 000 000
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 - 87 - 98 - 100 - 105 - 111 - 138 - 182
The new Labour Code which came into force in July 2006 diminished trade unions’ bargaining rights and made it very easy for employers to dismiss workers. Most of the existing legislative restrictions on trade union rights remained in force despite ILO criticism. There were reports of management obstructing trade union activity.
Trade union rights in law
Recognition of rights: The right to form and join trade unions is recognised in law. The 1997 Trade Union Law contains comprehensive legislation on basic trade union rights. Workers in government organisations are governed by a separate law on the civil service, which also recognises the right to join trade unions. However, there are certain restrictions with regard to law enforcement agencies and the general prosecutor's office. Collective bargaining is recognised in the law on Collective Agreements and Contracts. The law provides punitive measures against those who refuse to take part in negotiations. The right to strike is also recognised, and anti-union discrimination by employers is banned.
Minimum membership requirement: According to the law, at least 100 people are needed to form a trade union - a requirement considered unreasonable by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. However, where a trade union exists, an enterprise-level section of that union can be formed with a minimum membership of 15.
Potential limitations: The Organic Law on the Suspension and Prohibition of Activities of Voluntary Associations defines the grounds for the suspension of voluntary associations, including trade unions. Final responsibility for such decisions lies with the courts. Grounds for prohibition include stirring up national or social conflicts.
New Labour Code reduces union rights: In May the parliament adopted the new Labour Code (which came into force in July 2006), described by the government as one of the most "liberal" labour laws in the world. The new Code introduces a hire and fire policy whereby a worker can be dismissed without a valid reason, provided that he or she receives severance pay equivalent to one month’s salary. This has discouraged workers from organising or presenting their demands to the employer, as they fear losing their jobs. In the meantime the Code gives employers the right to unilaterally establish the rules concerning a number of working conditions, such as the organisation of working time, which traditionally have been subject to collective bargaining. The Code defines a collective agreement as a contract between an employer and two or more employees, thus effectively marginalising the trade unions’ position as a workplace bargaining agent.
Regardless of trade union protests, including a 1000 person rally, the government chose not to engage in consultations. According to the state authorities, the new Code was necessary to attract foreign investment, a view which was, interestingly enough, not shared by the national employers‘ organisation. As the Georgian minister of labour, health and social care, Mr. Chipashvili explained to the international trade union movement, they "had no time" to consult with the unions, since the Code had "to be adopted very fast, and that only after the Labour Code had been adopted, were they ready "to hear the trade unions’ arguments".
Limitations on the right to strike: The new Labour Code imposes a number of restrictions on the right to strike. A strike, regardless of the nature of work or sector of activity, cannot exceed 90 days in a row, and is only legal if a warning strike of no longer than three days has taken place one to fourteen days before the main strike. Article 51 of the Code stipulates that workers who were notified of the termination of their employment before the dispute had started cannot go on strike.
Trade union rights in practice
No adequate protection: Although the law protects workers from anti-union harassment, both the GTUC and its affiliates have reported cases of management obstructing trade union organising. There have been reports of threats and intimidation for trade union activity from workers in local government (in Tblisi), education, mining, pipelines, port facilities and wine-making. The Ministry of Labour reportedly investigated some of the complaints, but no action was taken.
Failure to respect international standards: Numerous violations of trade union rights prompted the GTUC to submit a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in September 2004. Regardless of several appeals issued by the Committee the government did not provide its comments to the GTUC allegations. The Committee was therefore finally forced to examine the case in the absence of the government's position, regretting the lack of cooperation. A number of ILO requests on amending Georgian legislation in line with international standards still remain unanswered.