Georgian miners get 35 percent salary increase, stop strike
Miners in the Georgian city of Chiatura have been promised a salary increase of 35 per cent. On this condition, they have stopped their strike which lasted almost two weeks and which involved the support of many citizens.
The agreement was reached on May 27 as a result of a meeting that lasted almost two hours with the leadership of the Georgian Manganese Company and the Ministers of Economy, Health and Education who arrived in Chiatura. The recently elected mayor also participated in the negotiations.
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Salary increases will reach 35 percent only gradually.
Initially, wages will be increased by 25 percent, and over the course of the year will go up by another 10.
The initial demand of the strikers was a 50 percent increase in their salaries.
Earlier, the company Georgian Manganese stated that it could gradually increase salaries by 25 percent, but the miners did not agree to this.
What was happening in Chiatura?
On May 27, employees of schools, kindergartens, shops and other facilities joined the protesters in Chiatura.
Journalists and others on the scene said the banks and other institutions were not working. Several thousand people joined in the rally.
“Chiatura is paralyzed today, nothing is working in the city. We are all together today, whether we work in a mine or not, we are all miners today”, says one of the protesters, Givi Shergelashvili.
All 11 mines belonging to Georgian Manganese have stopped. Representatives of the company and the government have met with the protesters, but to no avail.
The elected mayor of Chiatura, Givi Modebadze, told RFE/RL that only schools and kindergartens are working today.
What did the miners want?
3,214 people work at 11 mines in Chiatura.
The requirements of the miners are to increase wages by 50%, to be given better health insurance and for heavy machinery with ore to no longer move through the city itself. They also demand that no one be punished for participating in the protest rally.
Some protesters are located at the entrance to the city and are not allowing the heavy equipment of the company to move.
In a conversation with journalists, protesters say that the maximum salary of employees is 800 lari (about $285), and the minimum is 240 (about $85).
In turn, Georgian Manganese says that the average salary is 1,002 GEL. Engineering and technical personnel receive 1,465 GEL, while workers receive 924 GEL.
The company agrees only partially to meet the demands of the strikers yet has also begun litigation with them.
In a statement Georgian Manganese states that the company made striking a counter offer, which provides for a phased increase in wages by 25% starting July 1; distribution of allowances for employees with a salary of less than 1,000 GEL; replacement of a food contracting company; complete limitation of movement of heavy equipment in Chiatura and other measures.
“It should be noted that this is the maximum that Georgian Manganes can offer today in order to make it possible to defuse the extremely difficult situation in Chiatura … Unfortunately, workers do not agree to the proposal of Georgian Manganese”, the company said.
Protestors declare that the proposal of Georgian Manganese will not change the existing situation.
“The situation is really severe and I want to tell you that the demands of the miners are completely fair”, said Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze in the programme Reaktsia.
Government representatives say that the government can mediate at a political level between the protesters and the company, said Health Minister David Sergeenko after a meeting with minors.
“All questions, besides raising salaries, are our direct responsibility. We have already made an assessment and are taking concrete steps to resolve these issues. As for the increase in salaries, it is necessary to create an opportunity so that in the business mode, in the negotiation mode, these people will sit down and together with the management be able to make the best decision”, said Sergeenko.