MAC: Mines and Communities

Georgia's Big Steal

Published by MAC on 2011-09-26
Source: Statement (2011-09-19)

A strike at the Kutaisi steel mill, in western Georgia, was crushed last week in a massive show of police force.

The workers had been trying to form a legitimate trade union, after facing unacceptably  poor wages and working conditions, imposed by the Euroasian steel company.

Among the detained were a hundred Indian migrant labourers who had their passports seized.

MAC editorial note: Euroasian Steels was established in 2005 as a joint venture company between a Georgian politician and the MANAKSIA GROUP, an Indian business enterprise.

As well as operating the Kutaisi mill, the firm claims to own several production plants in India, and others in Nigeria and Ghana, "specializ[ing] in the manufacture of packaging products, crowns, closures, and metal containers, metal products and fast moving consumer goods".

Georgia: Strike-breaking, union-busting, forced labour at steel plant

LabourStart

22 September 2011

Georgian workers continue to experience severe trade union repression at the hands of both the employer and the government. The latest attack comes at Hercules Steel, a Georgian-Indian joint venture in Kutaisi, Georgia. Workers formed a trade union on 4 August 2011. However, the employer refused to recognize the union and fired six leaders. As the employer refused to seek a negotiated solution, workers had no option but to strike, some going on a hunger strike.

Strikers at the Hercules Steel factory in Georgia
Strikers at the Hercules Steel factory in Georgia.
Source: Labourstart / Georgian Service

On 15 September, the governor and 50 police vehicles stormed the plant and arrested 40 workers. Immediately after the strikers were dispersed, the police and management representatives called and visited workers demanding that they return to work under penalty of arrest. The police also forced detained workers to sign statements promising not to protest and to return to work immediately.

In addition to the industrial conflict, information has emerged that over 100 Indian migrant workers have had their passports withheld and have been forced to live in squalid living conditions. Wages and working conditions are very poor.

Workers wanting to leave in advance of the expiration of their contract have not been allowed to leave. We are urging the Georgian government to intervene in this matter to ensure the domestic and international labour rights of Georgian and Indian workers are fully respected.


ICEM Condemns Georgia Police in Suppressing Union Rights at Euroasian Steels

19 September 2011

ICEM News release

Georgia - The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) today registered strong condemnation with the Government of the Republic of Georgia over the police crushing of a legitimate workers' strike and formation of a trade union at Euroasian Steels in Kutaisi, Georgia.

Police began using forceful tactics last Thursday evening, 15 September, to break a peaceful strike at the 400-worker steel mill, and on 16 September and over the weekend, arrested, detained, and threatened scores of union workers seeking union representation at Euroasian Steels.

In a letter today to Georgian President Mikheil Saakasvhili and Prime Minister Nika Gilauri, the ICEM calls for restoration of human and trade union rights to members of the ICEM affiliate, Metallurgical, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers' Trade Union of Georgia, and immediate release without charge of three leading union activists, who were picked up and arrested Saturday, 17 September, on bogus charges obviously related to trade union activity. The ICEM also demands job reinstatements for some 20 other workers.

Emilo Gumberidze, Irakli Iobidze, and Milkhaz Gogiava will appear today in court in the provincial capital of Kutaisi and they could face jail sentences.

Last Thursday, Georgian police, unprovoked, broke up a strike by 200 metalworkers in front of the Euroasian steel rolling mill in Kutaisi. They detained up to 40 strike participants and the next day police officers raided the homes of many workers, ordered them into police cars, and then incredulously took them to the factory for work shifts.

In today's formal complaint to Georgia's Government over the police actions, ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda wrote, "This is an embarrassment to Georgia, a serious stain on Georgian trade and commerce, and it is the opinion of the ICEM that these overt acts of repression bring Georgia back to another time era."

The ICEM charges Georgian police and the country's Internal Affairs Ministry with blatant violation of guaranteed social and human rights common in several international charters. The ICEM pledged to stand with the union and the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) in their fight for workers' rights at Euroasian Steels.

The ICEM is demanding that internal Georgian security forces stop acting as a front for Euroasian Steels, a two-and-a-half-year-old steelmaking enterprise in Kutaisi that has failed to establish even a rudimentary system of employee relations.

The enterprise is 87.5% owned by Dubai-based Euroasian Ventures Ltd., itself owned by Indian steel company Manaksia Ltd., and 12.5% by a holding concern controlled by Georgian national Paata Chkhenkeli, who himself is connected to Georgia's political and economic elite.

The ICEM is a Geneva, Switzerland-based Global Union Federation, representing 20 million workers that belong to 467 trade union affiliates in 132 countries.

For further information, contact ICEM Information Officer Dick Blin +41 22 203 1842

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