Home Society Kiku, take off your clothes or I’ll arrest you!

Kiku, take off your clothes or I’ll arrest you!

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Saakashvili’s government made the employees of Kutaisi “Hercules” factory stop strike and start work. On September 15-16, Saakashvili’s regime infringed so many rights and violated so many norms that their listing will take a lot of time and pages. It was not difficult to predict such ending. On September 7, before the above strike, “Georgia and World” wrote: “If Georgian society does not support the metallurgists of Kutaisi, the Government and the company owning the factory will, with high probability, severely suppress the protest, and treat the activists with the sadism characteristic to it”. That’s exactly what happened; until the society was sleeping as always, the government attacked the metallurgists on strike.
Despite the fact that the regime has committed a lot of shameful things that led to much more severe results, the incident that took place in Kutaisi cannot be considered as “ordinary” or “local”. The developments around “Hercules” demonstrated that Saakashvili’s government does not intend to put up with any kind of protest even if it has small size and is legal, and does not have any political background or demands. It seems that on September 15, the idea of the so called protest on concrete issues that has been largely promoted by Georgian opposition was killed in Kutaisi.
The metallurgists were demanding to reinstate the employees fired for participating in Trade Union’s activities and improve working conditions. They did not use the following types of slogans” “Misha, go away!” (Get out of here, etc.). Their demands did not cross the line of the norms set by the Constitution and Labor Code. However, the police, based on what eye-witnesses and representatives of Yong Lawyers Association state, was acting illegally. Based on the information provided by GYLA “the detained people were forced to write statements in the police stations in which they had to note that they would never protest the conditions at the factory, and continue working. We consider that in case of confirmation of the above fact, it will be qualified as illegal and unjustified interference in the rights of employees on strike. GYLA considers that disperse of a legal meeting, illegal detention, keeping people in the police stations for several hours without official record, and making them write statements not having any legal basis represent abuse of power by policemen (Interpressnews). In addition, as we know it was not everything the police had done. The day after the meeting was dispersed, Irakli Petriashvili, the Chair of the Trade Union, disseminated the following information: “The police and “Hercules” management visit the employees’ houses to make them go to the factory. The police is still continuing its raid (express news)”. He also mentioned with media news that the metallurgists were working under the police supervision”. Based on the information of line Trade Unions, this was the second time when the police tried to control working process. Last June, the employees of “Hercules” organized a protest because of delay in salary payment, and stopped working. Seven people were arrested, charged with hooliganism, and sentenced to 20-day imprisonment. During a month after the incident the factory employees had to work under close control of policemen with pistols in their belts.” It is difficult to make any kind of comment: nobody can identify which century we live in here, while beyond the bars the XXI century is counting its years.
After having suppressed the strike, the “Hercules” management fired four more employees as they were the most active ones during the strike. Ultimately, 21 people were sacked during a month and a half (at first the people leading Trade Unions were fired, while later – those who supported them). On September 18, the Trade Unions disseminated the information that the police detained three people. On September 19 the Kutaisi district court sentenced Irakli Iobidze, Emilo Gumbaridze and Malkhaz Gogiava to 10-day administrative imprisonment for resisting the police.
In any normal country, after the above developments, the leaders of opposition parties would have demanded an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister to hear the explanations of the happenings. However, our opposition limited its actions to some mumbling. The only exception was “National-Democrats”. The party organized a meeting in Tbilisi and declared their solidarity to the metallurgists in Kutaisi. However, taking into consideration tiny resources of the above party, it was difficult to either mobilize the society or draw attention to the problem, even more so since the majority of the society could not care less about the problem of the metallurgists.
How can such open and rude interference of the Government in the conflict between employees and employer be explained? The analogue to such interference could hardly be found only in the in the XIX century. In such cases the Government should limit its interference to the minimum level, at least for the sake of International Labor organization and other international structures. It should try to maintain the role of an impartial arbitrate, and if fails to do so, should at least try to save its face. Nothing of the kind happened in Kutaisi, which proves the rumors that Georgian high officials have their financial interests in “Hercules”. Supposedly, only self-interests transiting into greediness can make people lose caution and act in such coarsely manners.
A country where schizophrenia is upheld to state policy nothing can be surprising, including the comment made by Irakli Jikia, Vice-Mayor of the city of Kutaisi with Interpressnews: “Any investor will have maximum support from the state as the key priority is the creation of new jobs and employment of local people”.
The cornerstone in the above sentence is the word “any” that should be understood as “whoever it might be”, “whatever origin the capital may have”, “however it behaves”, etc., Had the Mayor Jikia with his friends happened to be in the situation where Kiku was offered 10 rubles to take off her clothes, he would have torn the clothes (or skin) off the poor girl, and grabbed those 10 rubles. That is called “to support any investor”. Taking into consideration the present reality, it means: “Kiku, take off your clothes or I’ll arrest you!” Normal investor would not accept the situation. Supposedly, that’s why the value of foreign investments has reduced. Only dirty capital and dishonest people feel good under the above situation.
It is interesting that not only Georgian Metallurgists have such problems. Trade Unions disseminated the information that the administration of the factory took the passports of the Indian employees of the factory away, thus not giving them the chance to leave Georgia. Taking the passports is the real sign of trafficking, a modern form of slave-owning, and we hope that NGOs and Indian Government, respectively, will pay attention to that. Despite the fact that state propaganda will soon offer us a number of stories about how happy the Georgian and Indian employees of “Hercule”s are, we can expect that “Evrazianstils”, the owner of the factory, will not last long in Georgia. To put it simply, the organization took too much on itself, and from now on each of its steps will be closely and persistently monitored and observed by NGOs and International organizations whose actions will lack good-will. We cannot exclude that somebody (human rights watch organizations, Trade Unions, a group of metallurgists having incurred losses, etc.,) can urge the company partners to seize all kinds of contacts with it.
It is widely known that Georgian Trade Union is a weak organization. Moreover, there were rumors spread several times that the organization acted in coordination with the Government. The developments related with “Hercules” were a good chance for them to rehabilitate their image. It is kind of a test. Based on how active and purposefully the organization will act, we will have a chance to make our conclusion what they will look like in future. Let them play their game, and make comments.
Trade Unions did not aggravate the situation after the oppression of the strike of “Hercules” employees; the key in their tactics is contacts and appeals to foreign organizations. Generally, the above model of behavior is an integral part of Georgian protests; moreover, it became its constitutive part. We have made the world see something, tried to convince the world to deserve its mercy.
Gubaz Sanikidze and National Forum call for participation in “March of Georgians” on September 27: “We should demonstrate the whole world” (netnewspaper.ge). Irakli Sesiashvili, expert on security issues, when talking about the same issues said: “Georgian nation should make the world see that it is against any political clan or political mob (presage.tv). The desire, which cannot be hold back, the desire to show something to the world can be observed in the speech of almost every figure, including rather respectable ones. Psychologists often relate the above to “external reference”, meaning dependence on others’ evaluations, which ultimately leads to the adjustment of one’s own behavior. That has been characteristic for Georgian nation not for years but for centuries.
It may not sound politely, but the world could not care less about our hardship, territorial integrity, our IDPs, slave metallurgists, veterans, unemployed population, and the whole Georgian nation with its ideological outline, cultural peculiarities, history (mostly virtual), and dignity. And, the world will not change the above attitude unless it sees that the regime can no more control the country, which needs clear and active protest.
Of course, we can once again march along Rustaveli Avenue. However, nothing will change in Georgia unless we start acting using on our strengths, nonetheless “what the world may think about that”.
Dimitri Moniava

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