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Tbilisi Micro Bus Company gives drivers three days to end strike

By Keti Arjevanidze
Thursday, January 31
If a consensus is not achieved between the Tbilisi Micro-bus Company and the drivers in three days, the company will be forced to cancel the contract with the drivers and outsource the competition to new drivers, the Tbilisi micro-buses Company stated on January 30th.

“We consider the concerns of Tbilisi residents and cannot afford to paralyze the city. The drivers’ latest demand to reduce the daily fee by 30 % and the drivers' demand to increase their income to around GEL 300-600 for each driver in 2 weeks, will bring financial loss to the company and it would be impossible to implement,” stated Gigla Jabishvili, the Director of Tbilisi Micro-Bus.

Jabishvili recollected that in 2011 Tbilisi Microbus won the contest of City Hall and received permission to carry the passengers through Tbilisi administrative borders.

Drivers on strike have been trying to negotiate with Tbilisi Microbus and Tbilisi City hall for around a week, but have had little success.

Mamuka Baliashvili, one of the leaders of Georgia’s Way and a participant of the drivers protest, appealed to Gigi Ugulava, the City Mayor, to take a stronger role in this issue.

Mini-bus (marshrutka) driver Gocha Makadze apologized to the population and asked for understanding, “we do not want a slavery life, and we also are in trouble,” said Makadze.

He also revealed that drivers are being threatened with losing their jobs if they do not stop protesting.

“We cannot repair buses with our own money, as it is connected with big expenses, we hardly keep families with our salary, it is not our prerogative… our obligation is to transport people safely from one place to another,” driver Malkhaz Kolbaia lamented.

Drivers say they are not going to return to their jobs until their demands are satisfied. The demands remain the same: the improvement of working conditions, the restoration of the workers dismissed unreasonably and a reduction in work load.

Meanwhile Tbilisi City Hall released an announcement appealing to the drivers and Tbilisi Minibus Company to renew the negotiations.

Akaki Jokhadze, head of Tbilisi's Transport service, declared that City Hall is continuing to perform the mediator’s role between the sides and is ready to renew the talks. “City Hall cannot interfere in the private company’s financial decisions, but it will use all the levers it has in order to get over the crisis on time through negotiations,” Jokhadze said.

The number of drivers on strike is estimated to be around 2, 500. Tbilisi residents who used to travel by marshrutka feel uncomfortable and wish the protest would soon end.