The Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC) accused authorities of “repressions” against its members after police arrested three workers of a metallurgical plant in Kutaisi, who were participants of a strike, which came to an abrupt end late on September 15 after police intervention.
Over thirty participants of the strike were arrested that night and released several hours later; but on September 18 police arrested three workers, “who were actively cooperating with the trade union in preparing a lawsuit in connection of dispersal of strikers”, the GTUC said.
All three were charged with disobeying police orders, reportedly after they refused to undergo drug test; Kutaisi City Court found them guilty and sentenced to ten-day jail term on September 19, according to the Georgian Public Defender’s Office, which said that it was following the case.
Irakli Petriashvili, president of Georgian Trade Union Confederation, said after the three men were arrested on September 18, that “even a harmless protest prompts the authorities to respond with repressions.”
“I request the civil society and the international community to stand beside them [arrested former strikers], because it is not ruled out that other activists [of the trade union] may also be arrested,” Petriashvili said.
The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemned dispersal of strikers by the police on September 15.
In a protest letter sent to President Saakashvili, General Secretary of ITUC, Sharan Burrow, said that the plant management not only ignored a local trade union’s calls for discussing improvement of working conditions in the plant, but also fired six workers actively cooperating with the trade union, which became a reason for launching a full-scale strike on September 13.
“A role for the government in this situation should have been to attempt to mediate the dispute,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, local government not only condoned this illegal activity [by the plant management] but actually furthered its objectives through the use of overwhelming police power. This is an outrage.”
Meanwhile, the Georgian Public Defender’s Office (PDO) called on the chief prosecutor’s office on September 19 to launch a probe into police actions while dispersing the strike on September 15. It also called on the prosecutor’s office to investigate police action in a separate incident, which occurred outside the plant on the first day of the strike on September 13; police did not let strikers to put up a tent for hunger strikers, although the tent was not blocking entrance of the plant.
The Georgian Trade Union Confederation reported on September 17, that the plant management fired four more workers – all of them participants of the strike.