Solidarity Network – Workers’ Center (SNWC) was established as a citywide organization centred around but not limited to service sector employees in Tbilisi in July 2015. The purpose was to fill the need for an organized workforce within the service sector which is rapidly expanding — now encompassing the larger part of the employed population — and to promote a more participatory model of political engagement. The nature of the service industry, such as the dispersion of the labour force and the different types of work had made it difficult to organize trade unions in traditional formats. The organisation spent almost two years visiting worksites and launching successful social media informational campaigns educating the service sector on the labour code of conduct and advising employees and employers about ways to constructively deal with workplace issues. Since April 2017, Solidarity Network –Workers’ Center functions as an active alternative, transparent and democratic trade union of the service sector.
In the process of trying to increase the labour standards and educate the workforce, the workers’ centre, already a union, has accumulated knowledge that has compelled us to reshape our organization in ways that meet the demands of the conditions faced by the economic and social state of affairs of the present situation. It was decided to reformat our organization into a workers’ centre applying diverse methods and strategies by the end of 2016.
Workers’ centres are unique in the sense that they do not require a specific model, organization or strategy; they combine different models and strategies. Aside from the existing labour force, they attempt to engage the unemployed and the community at large. Workers’ centres are not “worksite” based, rather they operate from a place external to the worksite and relevant to the service employment trends. One of the important traits of the service industry in Georgia today that we have learned through this approach is that employees do not stay long at one workplace. Its purpose is to strengthen the labour force, promote sustainable economic development and activate the population. Workers’ centre has members who can have an access to a diverse set of resources, services and political education now.
One of the main problems that exists in the labour market is a mismatch of skills with the type of work demanded. There are jobs and vacancies that are unable to be filled due to a lack of skills and also there are skilled people who cannot find a job. The organisation decided to take on these tasks as a central part of the Workers’ center. The organisation are in the midst of developing partnerships with technical colleges. The workers center serves mutual interests; it recommends its members who want to find better 3 jobs to get new and proper training at the colleges and promote their colleges. In exchange, the center requires a space to teach the labour code and train them effectively for their occupation.
Besides ameliorating the mismatch of skills, the organisation wants to provide recommendations and general guidance to improve our legislation based on the accumulated experience and knowledge, as the Solidarity Network – Workers’ Center has become the member of the two Parliamentary committees emphasizing the issues of safety regulations at the worksite and the issues concerning gender and labour. In order to do this, the center has built a legal team that pursues legal research around employment and the labour code.
The workers’ centre primarily focuses on:
- Establishing mutual partnerships with technical colleges to improve the skills of our members and the labour force at large.
- Filing legal complaints concerned with violations of the labour codes
- Collaborating with governmental agencies to enforce labour laws.
- Initiating legislation/ giving recommendations.
- Launching campaigns around housing, taxation, predatory lending, etc…. “Community issues”.
- Launching campaigns around labour issues.
- Engaging in leadership development and popular education.
- Distribution process/training for job opportunities/English language courses.
- Research/Studies on working conditions and all other issues related to employment of our members and our sectors. Both legal and sociological/anthropological studies.
- Policy formulation and advocacy present our main focus. The policy formulation is based upon our research, experiences and canvassing. Policy articulation campaigns are built through the contact channels within the state institutions, civil society & media, and assuredly a large scale public involvement remains the key principle in the process.