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Tbilisi Metro Announces Strike after Government’s Refusal on Salary Raise

By Levan Khutsishvili
Tuesday, May 1
On April 30, 2018 Independent Trade Union of Machine-operators “Unity 2013” announced about the upcoming strike in Tbilisi. According to Rati Kapanadze, Chairman of Trade Union 100% of the Tbilisi Metropolitan Workers will go on strike on May 3rd.

Main demand of workers is increase of salaries by 45%. At present, average monthly salary of machine operators is 1150 GEL. Employees say the existing remuneration is incompatible with the environmental conditions, working cycles and responsibilities that they face daily.

"They spend the whole day working under the ground where they have to work in a constant tense regime with the noise, high vibration, shortage of oxygen, radiation background and ensure safe transportation of 400,000 passengers per day. At the same time, according to a research carried out by the machine-operators themselves, early deaths (widely believed that 60% of workers do not reach pension age 65) and cardiovascular diseases are widely spread among the machine-operators,“ said EMC lawyer Lina Gvinianidze.

The employees were demanding pay raise in 2016 and planned to strike, but the court rescheduled the strike with 30 days. As Kapanadze says, the agreement was signed and one of the topics was the review the question of salaries, but nothing has changed yet.

On April 2, 2018, the employees of Tbilisi Metro asked the Minister of Health to appoint Mediator and start mediation process where Tbilisi City Hall should also be involved (as an owner of Tbilisi Transportation Company). On April 25, Vice-Mayor of Tbilisi Irakli Khmaladze declared that City Hall doesn’t has enough financial resources to increase the salary of Tbilisi Metro workers.

"We appreciate the work that these people do for the society, but we should make decisions based on the resources available to the municipality today, it can happen that people's compensation does not respond to the work they do, but it should respond to the possibility of the structure. "Tbilisi Transport Company" doesn’t have resources to satisfy the employee’s request. I hope the machine-operators will understand,” said Khmaladze.

"Metro workers have been struggling to raise salaries since 2013, but the state and the company have no will to care and create dignified conditions for people who have been serving thousands of passengers every day;

We tried everything to not create obstacles for transportation in city, but the company does not leave other choice as:
- The salary of subway workers has not changed since 2013;
- The profession of machine-operator is among the top ten serious, harmful, and hazardous services;
- Machine - operators have to work in life-threatening conditions (vibrations, problems of vision, noise, flammable air pollution, and glycemic diseases),“ declared the members of the Independent Trade Union “Unity 2013” on press conference.

“Unite 2013” members apologize for the upcoming strike and put all responsibilities on City Hall and Government.

If the City Hall will not find a solution, Tbilisi transportation system will collapse, especially when city has no well organized public transport system, the number of private cars is large and there is no alternative way of transportation – no bicycle roads or adapted spaces for pedestrians. Subway is the biggest transportation system in the city, and if it stops, no new overpasses will help the situation.