Borjomi factory workers protest over poor working conditions in Georgia
Borjomi factory workers go on strike
The strike began on May 31st. On the morning of June 6, protesters blocked the entrances to both Borjomi factories.
The picketers demand the reinstatement of 50 laid-off employees, a return to the old working conditions, the conclusion of open-ended contracts and a 25 percent increase in wages. Another condition for the continuation of work is the punishment and dismissal of employees of the administration who blackmail, threaten and coerce the workers.
The situation in the Borjomi company worsened after its Russian owners of had been put on the list of businessmen who fell under Western sanctions because of the war in Ukraine.
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At the end of April, IDS Borjomi Georgia, which bottles this mineral water, stopped the work of both plants in Borjomi.
IDS Borjomi Georgia, which owns the Georgian brands Borjomi, Likan, Mitarb and Bakuriani, is part of the large Russian conglomerate Alpha Group. The owner of Alpha Group, Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, is under sanctions.
Friedman’s accounts are frozen, so he can neither earn money in Borjomi nor be a guarantor of other businessmen.
Added to this is the fact that Borjomi has effectively stopped deliveries to its two main markets, Russia and Ukraine. Some countries, such as Estonia, have taken this brand off the shelves because it belongs to a Russian businessman.
At the end of April, the company announced massive layoffs and sacked 50 employees. In total, more than 600 people work at two factories in Borjomi, and if we take into account the sales line, their number will increase to 1000.
“Keep in mind that more than a thousand families were left without a stable source of income”, Giorgi Diasamidze, chairman of the trade union of workers in agriculture, trade and industry, told Novaya Gazeta.
As a solution, the company offered employees modified contract terms. According to the employees, there were threats and blackmail from the administration in order to sign these agreements. Employees note that they do not agree with the proposed conditions. They say the company has already cut their salaries because of the pandemic.
On May 19, Alpha Group officially offered the government of Georgia to transfer its stake in IDS Borjomi Georgia free of charge. This step would allow the Georgian government to participate in the management of the company and resume the operation of factories, Alpha Group explained.
Two days later, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili responded to this proposal. According to his calculations, the share that the owners of Borjomi want to transfer to the state is estimated at $100 million. Garibashvili promised the people of Borjomi that the government would give a final answer in a few days.
“Borjomi will have no problems in operation, and our proud brand will continue to work. All employees must be calm. I want to appeal to the team with a promise that the problem will be solved”, the Prime Minister said.
Almost a month has passed since this announcement, but the fate of Borjomi and its employees is still unclear.
The protesters say they will not disperse until the management of the Borjomi company fulfills their demands.
According to IDS in Borjomi, the plants are currently operating at a minimum load and only for the Georgian market.