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2 workers killed in a land collapse

By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, April 2
On March 31, on 5 Chavchavadze Avenue, a land collapsed on a construction site, which resulted in the death of two workers. Rescuers were able to find the body of a 26-year-old Davit Abesadze quickly after the accident, but they spent 8 hours looking for the second worker, Eduard Varishov. Both of the men were trapped under 8 meters of soil.

The company that handles the construction on the behalf of “ltd Lechkombinati”, “Transmsheni”, says that the safety at the construction site was a responsibility of a sub-contractor “Khiminj Service 2” and the workers were hired by that company.

Beka Peradze, the head of the Department Labour Inspection of Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs of Georgia said that after the initial examinations of the site it was evident that job safety standards were violated.

“Transmsheni” expressed their condolences to the families of the killed workers and said that they would be ready to work with the investigators.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation under the article 240, paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (breach of safety regulations during mining, construction or other works that result in death or other grave consequences).

Solidarity Network – Workers’ Center (SNWC), an independent union quickly announced a protest in response to the accident. Representatives of the union were present at the construction while the rescuers searched for the bodies of the workers. According to their Facebook post, a 17-year-old son of the deceased Eduard Varishov also worked at the construction since he was 16 without a contract. “For the last two weeks the father and son had been working non-stop, they only took a day off two days ago to celebrate the 40th birthday of Eduard” reads the post.

“This is not a tragic accident. This is an accident that was created artificially, because we have a terrible policy and this, as a whole, is a problem of the government“ – said Sopo Japaridze, the chairperson of SNWC. She also emphasized the connection between workers’ rights and their safety – “workers’ rights should have the effect now. We adopted the Georgian Labor Code in 2013 but no one’s complying to it. And there’s nobody to enforce it. It all starts with labor rights. There can’t be work safety without the labor rights.”

Yesterday demonstrators gathered in front of the Chancellery of the Government of Georgia in a protest called “Time to Fight so We Don’t Have to Mourn” organized by SNWC. They demanded an effective investigation of the accident and a quick inspection of the ongoing constructions citywide, also a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Affairs and the Mayor of Tbilisi. The description of the protest reads: “the government shouldn’t only care for people’s health because they got the instruction from the EU. The priority of the government should be a person! We demand the Labor Inspection to immediately get a mandate for examining labor rights!”.

After the demonstration in front of the Chancellery, the protesters started marching to the Chavchavadze Avenue, they chanted – “city full of death” as a response to the Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze calling Tbilisi a “city full of life”.

“ltd lechkombinati”, as of now, lost the license to continue works on site. Sub-contractors were fined. “Transmsheni” was fined with GEL 7 000 for hindering the inspection process, and “Khiminj Service 2” was fined with GEL 1 000 for not being registered to carry out hard, harmful and dangerous works.

This is not the first tragic accident in the past weeks. On March 16, three workers fell from a 15-story building in Tbilisi while painting a façade, two of them died immediately and the other was heavily injured.

According to a data from The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, from 2010 up until June of 2018, a total of 1061 workers were injured at the workplace and 395 people died as a result of unregulated working conditions.

As of now, workplaces are monitored for health and safety violations by safety inspectors who can only make one visit to the workplace per year. The construction site on Chavchavadze Avenue was inspected recently and there were no violations found.

As the government continues to turn a blind eye to the violations at a workplace and refuses to harshly punish companies responsible for the deaths of hundreds of workers, they keep being killed while trying to earn a bare minimum in order to survive.