31 May

Alarming Precedent of Georgian Common Courts Restricting the Right to Strike

We would like to inform you regarding the recent developments in relation to the collective labor dispute launched by the Metropolitan Independent Trade Union, which continues to this day, to the extent that the metro workers do not enjoy their right to strike, as provided by the law.

The Right to Strike of an Independent Trade Union has twice been restricted by the court decision. In one case the restriction was meant to postpone the strike for 30 days, and the second court ruling, in essence, indefinitely banned the metro drivers from going on strike, which is directly contrary to the applicable law and the International Labor Organization (ILO) standards. The said court ruling sets an extremely dangerous precedent that threatens not only the enjoyment of the right to strike by the Metro drivers, but also jeopardizes the whole concept of the right to strike and actually abolishes its legal content. This decision was also criticized by the Public Defender of Georgia, pointing out that “the restriction of the right of Metro workers to strike for an indefinite period of time contradicts the law and violates the essence of the right to strike“.1

The collective labor dispute has been underway for several months already between the Tbilisi Metro drivers (Tbilisi Transport Company Metropolitan Independent Trade Union, “Unity 2013”) and “Tbilisi Transport Company”. Because of the failure of negotiations, the Metro employees announced the strike, in accordance with the law, starting on May 3, 2018, which, by the Tbilisi City Court ruling, was postponed for 30 days, until June 30th 2018. The court’s decision resulted from significant procedural violations, as the court failed to ensure that the flow of adversarial system and make a decision based on the proper balancing between the enjoyment of the constitutional right to strike and the goal of protecting public good.

However, later, on May 21, 2018, Tbilisi City Court, based on the application lodged by the “Tbilisi Transport Company”, once again, indefinitely banned Metropolitan Professional Association “Unity-2013” drivers from going on strike “during working hours”.

According to the Georgian legislation, the court’s decision regarding securing the claim should be based on the assumption that the claim will be granted, which is not the case here, since the court ruling itself discusses that the Metro drivers’ professional association was taking part in the conciliation procedures and they followed all other legal requirements concerning the enjoyment of the right to strike, therefore it is likely that the goal of this complaint was not discussing the legality of the strike, but using all possible mechanisms, (including enforcement targeted to secure a claim) in order to limit the Metro drivers’ Constitutional right to strike and disregard their requests.

The Court also underlines the fact that, according to the ruling, it is only partially restricting the Metro Operators’ and they can utilize their right to strike outside working hours. It is noteworthy that according to the Georgian legislation, the right to strike is the employee’s temporary and voluntary refusal to fully or partly fulfill the obligations under the labor agreement, which shows the absurdity of the court’s justification. Both judgments of the Court have been appealed, which leaves the possibility that higher instance court will  1 http://www.ombudsman.ge/ge/news/saxalxo-damcveli-metros-memanqaneta-gaficvis-shezgudvasexmaureba.page overturn the previous judgments and prevent the execution of the dangerous precedent unlawfully limiting the right to strike.

In light of court’s unlawful decision restricting the right to strike, the Mayor of Tbilisi states that in case of violation of the court ruling by the Metro drivers, they plan to use all legal mechanisms against them.

Considering the high importance of the Metro drivers’ labor dispute and the court ruling extremely restricting the right to strike, it is especially important that the international actors pay close attention to the recent development concerning this issue, which will increase the possibility that the labor dispute will be resolved in a fair manner, within the law, and contribute to protecting the right to strike.

 

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC);

Solidarity Network – Workers’ Center (SNWC);

Young Socialists of Georgia (YSG);

Georgian Progressive Forum (GPF);