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Georgian Social Workers Continue Protests

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, April 1
Social workers all over Georgia continue protests, asking for better working conditions, additional workers and transport means to better serve their beneficiaries.

Despite the fact that the protesters had a meeting with Georgia’s Minister of Health David Sergeenko on Thursday, the protests still continue until all the requests of the social workers are met.

After the meeting, the minister made a statement that he expected the protests would stop. As Sergeenko noted, an agreement has been reached by both sides.

He noted that low salaries will be increased over the next nine months up to GEL 1200 and that the transportation problem was solved too.

“We have a plan which has been accepted by most protesters. I expect the protests will stop,” he said.

Nevertheless, the protesters said they are willing to continue dialogue with the Ministry, but the strike will continue until some issues remain unsolved.

While the social workers are on strike, other employees of the Health Ministry have been asked to fulfill their duties and serve socially vulnerable people and children.

However, after the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria studied the case, she says the people who fulfill the duties of the social workers, are mainly focused on new cases and not on ongoing ones.

"Replacement of social workers with other employees of the Ministry cannot help improve the situation. Even in small family type children's houses, the monitoring has shown violence among children, including sexual violence,” Lomjaria said.

The Ombudsman says creating normal working conditions for the social workers is very important.

Social workers started a collective dispute against the Social Service Agency on 8 February.

However, on March 21, they said that the mediation did not bring any outcomes and the Ministry refused to fulfill their requirements, including introducing regulatory schedule and allocating financial resources for transportation of workers.

The same day they submitted a statement to the ministry about the strike, saying from March 25 they refuse to fulfill their duties.

In addition, they said that elderly people, children, and disabled persons would still get the services from the social workers, as an exception.

Non-governmental organizations support the protesters.