Fair Labor Platform calls for government action on Chiatura miners’ strike

7 Jun, 2023

For the 7th day, more than 3,000 miners and their family members are protesting in the streets of Chiatura, demanding improvements to their harsh working conditions.

Work has been suspended in the mines as workers demand salary increases for inflation, labor safety improvements, proper equipment, better ventilation in the mines, and a return to their previous work schedule, amongst other things.

It is clear that for the past 17 years, Georgian Manganese has systematically violated the labor rights of its employees. In spite of numerous strikes in Chiatura over many years, the miners’ demands remain strikingly consistent: they simply want safe and fair working conditions for the dangerous and difficult work they do. And the company seems unwilling or unable to provide this.

This systemic nature of these violations is particularly noteworthy given that the company has been supervised by a court-appointed manager since 2017. The manager is mandated to address large-scale environmental damage caused by the company (estimated at 416 million GEL) and to protect workers’ rights. Yet despite the direct involvement of a state-appointed manager, the workers’ situation has deteriorated in recent months.

For the past week, the miners have been trying in vain to get the attention of the state and the mainstream media. Given the lack of progress so far, the miners now say they plan to resort to a more extreme form of protest: hunger strikes.

We appeal to state agencies, the media, and the public defender to immediately take action to remedy the situation as follows:

Minister of Labor, Health and Social Protection, and the Labor Inspection Service:

  • Send representatives to Chiatura to study the situation and appoint a Ministry mediator to start the process of dialogue.
  • Investigate the working conditions of the miners, including the condition of safety protection and equipment, and the state of food and sanitary facilities, and issue mandatory instructions to the company.

To the Public Defender:

  • Clearly fulfill the office’s duties by coming to Chiatura, meeting the miners, and learning about their grievances.
  • Issue written and oral recommendations to relevant responsible agencies and make a public statement in defense of the miners’ labor rights.

To the media:

  • Actively cover the ongoing protest in Chiatura in order to promote putting the issue on the political agenda and highlighting the responsibility of decision-makers.

This statement is endorsed by the following Fair Labor Platform members:

  1. Social Justice Center
  2. Open Society Foundation Georgia (OSGF)
  3. Union of Social Workers
  4. Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
  5. Guild
  6. Tbilisi Metropolitan Independent Trade Union – “Ertoba 2013”
  7. Trade Union of Science, Education, and Culture
  8. Solidarity Network