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Labour rights under pressure across Europe, including Georgia

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, April 1
Countries across Europe are struggling to comply with their international legal obligations concerning rights for workers, according to the latest annual conclusions from the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR).

ECSR is a legally-binding Council of Europe treaty, launched in 1961, which safeguards economic and social rights in areas such as housing, health, education, employment, and social protection.

The European Committee of Social Rights is a body composed of 15 independent and impartial experts which assess the extent to which national laws and practices comply with the charter.

The ECSR published 580 conclusions assessing compliance with the European Social Charter on issues including the right to reasonable working hours, fair pay and protection against harassment in 35 countries and territories between 2013 and 2016.

In total, the committee adopted 276 conclusions of conformity (47.6%) and 206 findings of violations (35.5%). It was unable to assess the situation in 98 cases (16.9%) due to lack of information.

The conclusions finding the highest proportion of violations concerned the right of all workers to a reasonable period of notice for termination of employment (95.8%), the right of workers and employers to collective action, including the right to strike (73.3%), and rules limiting the scope for deductions from wages (64.3%).

The ECSR also found that most of the states concerned failed to ensure that the lowest net wages paid met the minimum threshold to give workers and their families a decent standard of living (defined as 60% of the net average wage).

The conclusions also highlighted a series of positive developments in the application of the European Social Charter concerning labor rights in many countries.

Georgia ratified the Revised European Social Charter 22/08/2005, accepting 63 of the Revised Charter’s 98 paragraphs. The Government has not yet ratified the Additional Protocol providing for a system of Collective Complaints.

The report concerns the following provisions of the thematic group "Labour Rights":

• right to just conditions of work (Article 2),
• right to a fair remuneration (Article 4),
• right to organize (Article 5),
• right to bargain collectively (Article 6),
• right to information and consultation (Article 21),
• right to take part in the determination and improvement of the working conditions and working environment (Article 22),
• right to dignity at work (Article 26),
• a right of workers’ representatives to protection in the undertaking and facilities to be accorded to them (Article 28),
• right to information and consultation in collective redundancy procedures (Article 29).

Georgia has accepted all provisions from the above-mentioned group except Articles 2§3, 2§4, 2§6, 4§1, 4§5, 21, 22 and 28.

The reference period was 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2016.

The conclusions relating to Georgia concern 15 situations and are as follows:

– 1 conclusion of conformity: Article 6§3,
– 13 conclusions of non-conformity: Articles 2§1, 2§2, 2§5, 2§7, 4§3, 4§4, 5, 6§1, 6§2, 6§4, 26§1, 26§2 and 29.

In respect of the situation related to Article 4§2, the Committee needs further information in order to examine the situation.

Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia are the only three countries that are not in conformity with the Article 6§1 (promotion of joint consultation between workers and employers).

Azerbaijan and Georgia are the only two countries from the list that are not in conformity with Article 29 (The right to information and consultation in collective redundancy procedures).

Out of 63 paragraphs that Georgia accepted in 2005, it only confirms to one of them - article 6§3 - promotion by the State Parties of the establishment and use of appropriate machinery for conciliation and voluntary arbitration for the settlement of labor disputes.

Between 35 countries and territories, Austria leads the way with 14 conclusions of conformity an only 1 conclusion of non-conformity. While Georgia comes second to last – Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has no conclusions of conformity.

Majority of the job market in Georgia is unregulated, according to a study published by the International Monetary Fund last year, Georgia has the largest shadow economy in the world with 64.9%. Even where the regulations are in effect, it still lacks the proper realization of workers’ rights and considerably stays behind European nations.