tea tsulukiani

Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch — The new government in Georgia has presented a promised set of amendments to the labor code which it says will not only protect the rights of employers, like it was in the past.

Georgia’s labor code was liberalized by the Saakashvili government in 2006, but received strong criticism from local and international labor and human rights organizations for only suiting the interests of employers and not offering any protection for workers.

Amending the code was one of Georgian Dream coalition’s main promises before the 2012 parliamentary election. Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said at the first government session that she had been instructed by the prime minister to prepare amendments to the labor code, and Tuesday this week she unveiled the bill.

One of the main points of criticism is that an employer has the right to fire an employee at any time without reason. The new government suggests complete changing this article, as well as changing the format of labor contracts, which earlier were allowed to be in verbal form and short-term.

According to the new bill, overtime work will be still defined as more than 41-48 hours a week, but there is a new obligation for an employer to pay extra for each hour of overtime, defined as exceeding 48 hours a week.

If an employer fires a worker, the burden of proof will be on the employer, who will have to prove it was fair to fire the person. The current labor code doesn’t contain such an obligation, and workers have to go to court to defend their rights; however most of the cases are being dragged out in time or end up in favor of the employers.

Tsulukiani promises that the new labor code will be flexible and not scare the business world.

“Every employee is waiting for this labor code,” the justice minister says.