TBILISI, DFWatch – Nodar has been working in Georgia’s mountainous Bakuriani region for three years with his team of construction workers. But the company which employs him, Nola, has only paid him 2 000 lari out of the 16 000 he is entitled to.
“So many today are in the same situation as me,” he says outside of the National Executive Bureau in Tbilisi, where construction workers had gathered Tuesday to demand several years of back payment.
“Some even have demands of 18 000,” Nodar says.
The company Nola sent Nodar’s team to Bakuriani to build a security complex for the Interior Ministry on the order of BP. But a few years ago Nola went bankrupt.
It had debts of nearly 11 million lari to the government and nearly 800 000 to the 450 workers employed at the different construction sites around the capital as well as in the regions.
The workers went to court, and according to the Georgian Trade Union, two different judges reviewed the case. Both rulings — in April and May of 2010 — state that Nola must pay what it owes its employees.
The trade union helped them write a special statement to to the Executive Bureau to demand that the court ruling is carried out.
“We have been holding a number of rallies and protests and we had positive results too – a decision was made, but a decision cannot feed these workers,” Marina Kurtanidze, leader of the architecture, building and construction materials industry trade union says.
She says that the main problem is changes madeto the Labor Code in 2006, making it legal to employ people on verbal and short-term contracts.
“These verbal contracts give a number of opportunities for the employers, and the employees aren’t able to defend themselves,” she says, adding that another significant problem is labor safety, which isn’t properly guaranteed by the law and accordingly, by the employers.
“The labor inspection doesn’t exist in Georgia. The labor sphere is not monitored and the whole Labor Code needs to be changed.” Kurtanidze says it has lead to an increase in fatal accidents lately. According to the Interior Ministry, there were 71 accidents on the construction sector in 2010 and more than half of them fatal. Their families are left without the only bread-winner and without compensation.
According to the Georgian Trade Union, Nola has some assets with several companies, which could be realized to pay to the workers.
The trade union representative also said that the owners of Nola are currently arrested. They have received part of the money to pay to the workers, but didn’t pay them.
Part of tho 450 workers have been employed with building houses for the people affected during the conflict in 2008.
But since the company is no longer functioning, most of the workers are currently unemployed. They tell DFWatch that this money is very important to them. Some we meet have even come from the regions today to raise awareness of their situation.
“They have been lying to us, promising to give money from time to time,” Nodar says.
“We have families behind us and we need this money,” he adds.