Saturday, October 27, 2012

Georgia On My Mind

Following elections earlier this month, it is unclear how far Georgia's new government will go in honouring a pledge to reform the draconian labour code introduced by the previous regime. Although opposition coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili is now Prime Minister, Mikheil Saakashvili, whose United National Movement lost its parliamentary majority, remains President.

As I wrote at the time, the effects of the code were apparent when I visited the former Soviet republic last year to document the work of public sector unions. Trade unionists were already complaining of intimidation by both government and employers. Now a friend, recently returned from Tbilisi, tells me that, in the last 18 months, membership of the Georgian health workers union has fallen from 27,000 to 3,000 - a catastrophic collapse that suggests the situation has deteriorated further.

The legacy of Cold War realpolitik meant that the UK was quick to leap to the defence of Saakashvili's misguided attack on South Ossetia in 2008, whilst his attacks on workers' rights, in contravention of article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, went unremarked. However, despite the lack of pressure from its western allies, a recent report suggests things may be about to get better. More pictures here.

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