07TBILISI927, GEORGIAN LABOR UNIONS SEEK DIALOGUE WITH THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI927 2007-04-25 08:41 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6151
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0927/01 1150841
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250841Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6160
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000927 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC AND DRL 
COMMERCE FOR 4132 DANICA STARKS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB ECON GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN LABOR UNIONS SEEK DIALOGUE WITH THE 
GOVERNMENT 
 
REF: TBILISI 00873 
 
TBILISI 00000927  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. On April 20, PolEcon deputy and Econoff met with 
approximately 20 trade union delegates to the Georgian Trade 
Unions Confederation (GTUC), representing almost 63,000 
unionized workers from Telasi electricity distribution, 
BatumiTex Textiles, Adjara civil service, EnergyInvest (which 
operates the Azoti chemical plant in Rustavi), Rustavi city 
council, Abkhazia civil servants in exile, and auto 
transport, railway, construction, and subway trades.  Absent 
at the meeting because of a schedule conflict were delegates 
representing over 100,000 teachers, whose union is the 
largest in Georgia.  Most of the trade union delegates 
explained that since the Rose Revolution, their unions have 
grown as they have dismissed corrupt leadership, in tune with 
the government's crackdown on corruption.  Much of the 
unions' growth comes from reactivation of members who were 
disenchanted with widespread corruption at the top of their 
organizations.  Union delegates are participating in a series 
of three-day leadership training workshops, led by Robert 
Fielding of the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center, based in Kyiv. 
Fielding is helping them to train their colleagues in the 
principles of democratic trade unionism, organizing and 
collective bargaining.  Pol/Econ deputy told the delegates 
that the United States Embassy is not only interested in the 
issues of foreign business managers, but also in 
understanding the problems of workers and their unions.  He 
emphasized that democratic trade unions play an important 
role in American politics and are one of the factors that 
helped to build the middle class in America. 
 
2. GTUC President Irakli Petriashvili said the Confederation 
tries its best to defend workers' rights and not let populist 
political parties change the labor movement's goals. 
Delegates expressed strong support for the democratic 
development and economic stability of Georgia -- before even 
discussing economic goals or their problems with the 
Saakashvili government and with employers.  Petriashvili said 
that many union members had asked him if it was a good idea 
to support Shalva Natelashvili's Labor Party's call for a 
nationwide strike to protest the government's new tax 
proposals (reftel).  He said that he discouraged their 
participation because he views the demonstrations as an 
attempt by Natelashvili and others to exploit social issues 
as a way to power, not based on any sincere concern for 
workers.  However, he warned that the government risks 
alienating workers if it ignores their concerns, and that 
workers and their unions could fall for populist appeals such 
as Natelashvili's.  The delegates themselves said they prefer 
to work toward political stability within the current system 
and that they recognize their stake in Georgian democratic 
reforms and the success of business in rebuilding the 
economy.  Their main desire is that the government conduct a 
good faith dialogue with them. 
 
3.  Delegates said there is nothing that approximates the 
European style of tripartite social dialogue in Georgia. 
Although the majority of employees in most of their 
workplaces are unionized, their power is not commensurate 
with their large memberships.  Only a minority of members are 
active in the labor movement.  They believe the new Labor 
Code in Georgia skews the playing field excessively in the 
favor of employers -- mainly by permitting dismissal of 
workers for any reason without notice.  (Note: Although this 
is true in the U.S., it is a departure from European and 
Soviet norms and therefore a shock to Georgian workers.  End 
Note.)  This allows management a free hand; for example, the 
management of the Tbilisi metro cancelled danger pay for 
tunnel workers after the Labor Code was passed and has 
induced more employees to work more than a 40-hour week.  The 
delegates claimed that New Zealand has lost jobs as a result 
of its overly liberal labor code, and said Georgia may 
encounter similar problems.  The delegates told of one 
success, however, when a Georgian judge ruled that the 
Ministry of Education is obligated to engage in collective 
bargaining with the teachers' union, setting a precedent for 
the government as a whole.  They said that Minister of 
Education Kakha Lomaia is reputed to have remarked afterward 
that "Georgia does not need trade unions".  He supposedly 
offered the victorious attorney for the teacher's union a job 
in the Ministry of Education at a much higher salary. 
 
4. COMMENT.  Fielding mentioned that during a recent meeting 
with State Minister for Reform Coordination Kakha Bendukidze, 
he was surprised at Bendukidze's openness to working with the 
 
TBILISI 00000927  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Solidarity Center and Georgian labor representatives. 
Despite his reputation as a supporter of a free ha
nd for 
business and a self-avowed libertarian, Bendukidze agreed 
that in the end, both the unions and the GoG have the same 
goals of democratic and political stability.  We believe the 
labor unions will maintain their commitment to social 
stability for the time being, but their ability to keep labor 
peace may slowly erode if general economic conditions remain 
hard and the government is seen as continuously indifferent 
to the concerns of workers.  The Embassy will continue to 
report on developments in the trade union movement.  END 
COMMENT. 
TEFFT

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