Keti Labadze, Adjara
Bus drivers have been on strike for eight days already in Batumi. 300 drivers of public transport stopped working with the request of raise in salaries. Drivers request resignation of Gia Loria, director of the Auto Transport Company, and payment of 4, 5 lari instead 4 lari per working hour.
“Our first request is resignation of the director; cooperation with him has become impossible for the last seven years – it is equal of inhuman treatment. We also request raise in our salaries and labor contracts though at this stage we canceled this request because Giorgi Loria’s resignation is the most important for us. Negotiations were unsuccessful. Apparently, Irakli Chavlieshvili, chairman of the city council, protects Giorgi Loria. We will not stop protest until our request is satisfied,” driver Vazha Gobelia said.
Two drivers of municipal transport have been on hunger strike for the second day already; they set tents in front of the building of the Ltd Auto Transport; the drivers say that a month ago the administration promised them to increase salaries but they did not keep promise.
Supposedly, this week the city council will discuss the issue of the director of Batumi Auto Transport Ltd.
“They had many requests but finally named only one– resignation of the director. Representatives of the local authority, nongovernmental organizations met drivers, and clarified to them that inter-fraction group will be established in the council to resolve the resignation issue of the director. We compromised in everything but there is small group, who is not going to stop and categorically requests my resignation. I do not know why but the council will resolve this case. Why should they resign the director? They should find at least one professional shortcoming in my activities,” Gia Loria said and added that Ltd does not have financial sources to increase salaries of drivers.
“Everybody has right to go on strike but we should protect rights of population too. Other drivers might work instead strikers. After strike, the drivers will return to their working places. Nobody abuses them; let them return to their work,” Gia Loria said.
Mini-bus express was sent to the districts, where only buses ran before strike. The transportation tariff is 40 tetri; mini buses will run there until bus drivers stop strike and resume working.
“All interested people will join the inter-fraction group. We think the group will help us to reach some solution. There are some other requirements that can be satisfied. They request space for Trade Union. As for collective labor contracts, lawyers already work in this direction, and at the end of month labor contracts will be signed. Drivers do not get salaries from the district budget; they are paid from the financial resource of the Batumi Auto-Transport. At this stage, the financial resource does not allow the company to increase salaries alongside the bonuses, the drivers receive according to sold tickets,” Tite Aroshidze, deputy head of the economic service of the Batumi City Hall said.
Inter-fraction group started working on February 18. 18-member commission project was drafted; its members are chairman of the city council, interim mayor Giorgi Ermakov, ten members of the city council and city hall; chairman of the Trade Union Ilia Verdzadze. Chairman of the Trade Unions of Batumi Auto Transport Emzar Gogitidze and assistant to the chairman Simon Sikharulidze will be commission members too. Representatives of four NGOs will also join the commission.
State owns 100 % of Ltd Batumi Auto Transport.