The Labor Code and Workers’ Movement
The speakers of the discussion held on 27 February at the Heinrich Boell Foundation office spoke about the following issues: whether the employer has a hostile attitude towards the employee, what changes are being made to the Labor Code adopted in 2006 and why; different opinions and approaches as to whether the Labor Code is discriminatory and if it can be viewed as a commodity; historically established labor relationships between the employer and the employee; the Labor Code resulting from long lasting social conflict and how to solve this issue; labor rights and social dialogue; workers’ movement practices; the essence of a strike and its meaning; and the role of trade unions in the protection of labor rights.
But despite this long list of topics, the main subject of discussion was the new government’s planned changes for the current Labor Code. Marina Muskhelishvili, the Director of the Public Research Centre, considers that the main principle of the new Labor Code is that “the employed person has no obligation to prove his/her good work performance, but if the employer wishes to dismiss the employee for poor work performance, the employer has to prove that this is justified.”
In the opinion of Elene Kvanchilashvili, a journalist from the magazine “Tabula”, the proposed changes contain serious risks and raise new questions. For instance, one of these issues was whether it is reasonable for a third party to interfere in the relationships between the employer and the employee. She also addressed what could happen if the employer dismisses the employee and the third party reinstates him/her in his/her former position, and in spite of the employer’s desire to dismiss the employee, they still have to work together. Finally, Ms. Kvanchilashvili talked about what effect it could have if the employer is obligated to provide written justification for the reasons and necessity of a person’s dismissal.
Levan Abashidze, the representative of the organization “Laboratory 1918”, started his talk by listing the drawbacks of the Labor Code. In particular, he addressed why no investments have been implemented in the country; why citizens’ average income has not increased and quality has not improved; the work conditions of the people engaged in the industrial sphere; why and how the society should protest social injustice; why massive strikes have taken place after the elections on 1 October; and why the existing Labor Code needs to be changed.
Gocha Kvaratskhelia, the Deputy Chair of Georgian Trade Unions, emphasized the following: whether or not the state should regulate labor relationships; what is implied under labor rights; why he thinks that the current Labor Code does not properly regulate labor relationships, and on the contrary, favors the development of wild relationships between the employer and the employee; and with regard to trade unions, why their role has been diminished and what they have managed to do for workers in spite of this.
The Deputy Minister of Justice, Alexandre Baramidze concluded, “We appreciate employers as much as employees, since our main value is consensus and having in place legislation that is acceptable for all and that represents everybody’s interests to the greatest possible extent”. He then continued to speak about the work process, the stages that the draft law on the Labor Code has been through and the major issues that will be subject to amendments. He also talked about the necessity of implementing these changes. One the one hand, these are conditioned by the European Union course taken by the country, and on the other, the recommendations of the International Labor Organization on the amendments to the Labor Code and improvement of a number of its articles.