The messenger logo

Almost a year after social workers' strike, ministry fires 30 of them

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, January 31
Six civil organizations have issued a statement regarding the dismissal process with the argument of the reorganization of social workers on January 30.

“It is unacceptable, on the pretext of reorganization and vague justification, to dismiss qualified social workers, especially when many of the challenges facing the social service system requires more qualified staff to perform well,” reads the statement.

On January 29, 2020, up to 40 social workers (including senior social workers) from the Social Service Agency received notification from their employer that as a result of the planned reorganization of the Social Service Agency, the employment contract would be terminated from February 1, 2020.

The civil sector focuses on the fact that social service agencies have been facing the toughest challenges for years. They work in the most demanding and sometimes life-threatening conditions to protect the well-being, life, health and social rights of society and the most vulnerable groups. One of the main demands of the same social workers' strike in February 2019 was to add staff to the system as on average, each social worker works 100-150 cases per month, which significantly exceeds a reasonable number of cases.

According to the Social Work Law Action Plan, by the year 2019, the Ministry of IDPs from Occupied territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs should have added 50 social workers. There was also a promise for wage increases for social workers.

Social workers periodically organized rallies and strikes to pay attention to their problems. The organizations that signed the statement said the selection criteria for the dismissed social workers were unclear and may be related to their participation in the protests. They call for transparency of the ministry's process.

Organizations Signing the Statement are Independent Trade Union - Social Workers' Union; Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC); Independent Trade Union - Solidarity Network; Independent Trade Union - Unity 2013; Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; Open Society Georgia Foundation.

Keti Khutsishvili, a representative of the Social Workers' Trade Union, says that as of December 2019, there are 239 social workers in Georgia, but under the Social Work Law, the state has undertaken an obligation to raise that to at least 285 social workers in the country.

“According to the agency, these people were fired as part of the reorganization but were only informed of the fact 3 days prior. There was no other reason listed in the notification but reorganization,” said Khutsishvili and added that they should have explained why exactly were these people chosen to leave the agency.

The Ministry of Health claims the social workers were informed about the planned reorganization and were given 2 months' compensation.

According to the ministry, there is no plan to reduce the number of social workers and, on the contrary, various sectors will be strengthened.

The statement explains that the dismissal is temporary and the social workers who lost their jobs will have an opportunity to apply for the new vacancies created within the new Agency for State Care and Assistance to the Victims of Human Trafficking.

As a result of the reorganization, the Agency for State Care and Assistance to the Victims of Human Trafficking is supposed to be created.