TBILISI, DFWatch — Workers in the mining town Chiatura are keeping up a several weeks’ long protest. Part of them have moved to the capital to rally outside government bodies and the owning company’s offices.
The parliamentary election gave hope to workers all over Georgia to at least be able to fight for their rights and the possibility of improving their slave-like working conditions as well as increasing their humiliatingly low salaries.
The Chiatura miners were one of the groups that started protesting a few weeks ago and have been ceaselessly keeping up the pressure since. Their demands are to increase salaries by 100 percent, to improve safety guarantees, and better everyday conditions, like food and hygiene.
20 workers came to the capital on Wednesday. They gathered outside the president’s palace, accusing the president of having caused their difficult situation.
More than 3 600 workers have not let up their protest in Chiatura. The result is that all the mines and plants have been shut down for three weeks straight.
Students and political activists joined the miners on Wednesday. “Misha created slavery” and “Worker, not Slave”, two of the posters read.
The workers then moved on to outside the management of Georgian Manganese, the company that owns all the mines and plants in Chiatura.
There they engaged in negotiations with Merab Lominadze, who represented the company. After more than an hour and a half, the talks ended unsuccessfully.
Thursday was the eighteenth day of a protest launched by part of the miners who have set up camp two kilometers under ground. Thursday they were joined by 17 women, including one pregnant worker. They say they won’t leave until the mine management fulfills their demands.
“This is not the time to stop and give up,” workers encouraged each other at today’s rally.
Rusuda Kharaishvili, was one of the workers who met with Merab Lomindadze. She said the proposed conditions were ridiculous.
“They suggested to increase salaries for workers who are underground by 30 percent, and by 15 percent for the others. They promised to improve our conditions. Our demand is unchanged — to increase salaries by 100 percent,” she said, adding that the rallies won’t stop until all conditions are fulfilled.
Roland Abdushelishvili, a worker from Chiatura, says he hurried all the way from Chiatura without even having time to clean his teeth and wash his hands. He is one of the organizers of the events in Tbilisi.
“This is not the time to give up,” he says, calling on workers to return to Chiatura.
Workers decided to leave three of them in the capital for further negotiations, while others will go back and continue the protests with the others.
“If possible we can all drive here by car one day, but now it’s better if we remain there,” he said.
A group of feminists, students from different universities and the youth organization Laboratoria expressed support for the workers, rallying together with them in the capital.