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Books and Jobs Sacrificed to Contraversy

July 3, 2008

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

Former employees of the Sighnaghi Library have been protesting in the building of Sighnaghi Municipality Board for ten days. Demonstrators state they were fired from the library under the order of Nugzar Abulashvili, Sighnaghi single mandate candidate of the Georgian Parliament. The reason for their dismissal was the refusal of library personnel to visit families before the parliamentary elections and persuade people to cast their votes for the ruling party.

Officially, Liana Khatiashvili, Eleonora Gelashvili and other librarians of the Sighnaghi library worked based on one-month probation period contracts. However, they did not know about what kind of contacts they actually had, if any.  Nato Usenashvili, director of the Sighnaghi Art and Educational Center and employer, did not provide them with their contract or information about their appointment. The librarians learned about the terms of their contract conditions only after they were fired from their jobs.

“Order # 21 of May 7 2008 issued by the Sighnaghi Art and Educational Center, as provided, stipulates that  Eleonora Gelashvili shall be appointed as a librarian at Sighnaghi Library according to the Article 6, Part I, III and Article 9, Part I of the Labor Code.”

According to the Article 6 Part I of the Labor Code, employment agreements are executed in written or verbal form, for definite, indefinite term and/or for the period of employment duration. Section III of the same article stipulates that the application of a person and the subsequent document issued by the employer on its basis, which certifies the intention of the employer to hire a person, has the same power as having executed of an employment agreement. Article 9 Part I states for the purpose to identify expediency of the candidate with the employment, upon agreement of the parties, employment agreement for the probation period can be concluded with the candidate only once, for no longer than six months. Employment agreement for the probation period may be made only in writing, in other cases such agreement shall be deemed as being an employment agreement.

Despite the above-mentioned requirements of the code employment agreement was not signed between the Sighnaghi Art and Educational Center and librarians. However, even if the agreement was executed it would have been impossible to estimate the professionalism of an employee within the period of just one month. The library has not been functioning in Sighnaghi since March of 2007. Nearly 70 thousand books of children’s and central libraries are packed in 1,200 sacks and placed in damp cellars of public schools.

“Instead requesting the space for the library and take care of books that are being inundated with   moisture in the cellars, Nato Usenashvili persecutes specialists and employs unqualified staff,” said Liana Khatiashvili

-You state that you were fired from the library under the order of MP Nugzar Abulashvili. What is the basis of your statement?

-On April 18, before the parliamentary elections of May 21 2008, Zaza Zedelashvili, Sighnaghi District governor, invited library personnel to the election HQ of the National Movement. Nato Usenashvili also attended the meeting. The governor offered us to work in support of Nugzar Abulashvili, the single mandate candidate. I explained to him that I could not assist as I was an observer of the International Society-Fair Elections and Democracy in Sighnaghi. Other librarians also stated that they could not visit every family in the district and persuade people to vote for the ruling party. Before leaving the meeting, the governor warned to think over his offer because our further employment depended on our decision. A week later Nato Usenashvili fired us from our jobs.

-What was the official reason for your termination?

-She terminated the employment agreement. I refused to leave the building of Municipality Board in protest but the police forced me out of the building. Before that, Sighnaghi district governor insulted me and tried to beat me. He was shouting that everybody, who was against their party, must be jobless. 

Two days later, Zedelashvili called me and informed I was reappointed on my position as a librarian. On June 22 I was then fired for a second time,” said Liana Khatiashvili.

Former librarian Eleonora Gelashvili also thinks her reduction is connected with MP Nugzar Abulashvili. “I asked Nato Usenashvili to explain to me why she fired me. She directly told me I had to apply to Nugzar Abulashvili and if the MP changed his mind, Usenashvili would then reappoint me to my former position.”

Nato Usenashvili denies the accusations of the former librarians. “The MP has no connection with the dismissal of the librarians. He claims that they also lied, as if the district governor had demanded them to work in support of the single mandate candidate of the ruling party. Unlike them, I am not blaming anyone. At the moment we are investigating the violations committed by Liana Khatiashvili. The only thing I can say now is that while she worked as the director of the library she closed down several village libraries and the books disappeared. As for the books from Sighnaghi library in sacks, we do our best to save those books from spoiling. I understand people who lost their jobs but they do not have right to blackmail me in retaliation.

-What do you mean “who is blaming you?”

-When some of them came to the office to obtain the orders about their dismissal they then threatened to jump out of the window to demonstrate their protest and anger. These people should be subjected to psychological analysis,” said Nato Usenashvili.

Former librarians applied to the Kakheti Regional Governor for help but Governor Levan Bezhashvili was not interested in hearing about their problem. Fired libraries now urge Georgian Public Defender to come to their assistance.