The FINANCIAL -- On October 4th, Georgian Railway’s Workers Union celebrates its 110 years anniversary. Workers Union archives keep many significant and interesting facts that have years of history. A special event will be held at Art Hall to celebrate this date and demonstrate to the public the Workers Union’s creation history.
Railway workers from different countries will participate in the event. We talked with the chairman of Workers Union in this regard.
When has the first rail-track been laid, and when was the railway Workers Union created?
We are very proud to have crossed the century mark in the Workers Union’s existence. There is a lot of noteworthy historical facts, photos and news fragments about the founding of the Georgian Railway’s Trade Union.
In 1871, the first Georgian railway stop Poti-Zestaponi opened; in 1872, Tbilisi was connected via railway with the country’s strategically important Poti sea port.
In 1883 a railway exchange between Georgia and Azerbaijan started while in 1899 the Georgian-Armenian railway connection opened. In parallel, the railway connections in every region inside the country were being constructed. All of this was taking place by the use of hired workforce. The work days often reached 16 hours a day for the minimum wage. The workers’ unbearably hard conditions created an impetus to found a professional union which would protect the railway workers’ rights and represent their interests.
Despite the fact that the law legalizing the professional unions only came out in 1906, several separate entities in the 1905 Georgia were already able to found such unions based on data collected by the strike committee. One such organisation was Georgian Railway, which founded its workers union in 1905.
How was the Railway Workers Union protecting the workers rights back then? And what does it do to protect them today?
The first railway strike in Georgia took place in the fall of 1908, as a result of which the Georgian Railway administration increased the working day’s hourly norms.
Georgian Railway’s Professional Workers Union was actively in the professional unions’ activities in the region as well as in Europe of that time. The Workers Union has provided these organisations with significant moral and material help. All of these are documented in the archives. Starting with 1998, Georgian Railways Workers Union is officially the member of Railway Professional Union International Confederation. Starting with 2000, Georgian Railway became part of the UK’s International Transport Federation.
In 2014, the structure of the Georgian Railway Workers Union has been altered. Today we unite the workers unions from professional fields that are close to ours. The three-month paid pregnancy leave was the result of Georgian Railway Workers Union’s work.
Georgian Railway Workers Union was also behind balancing out the harsh work conditions of locomotive mechanics and their aids. We have prepared special uniforms, special shoes and other protective gear that has become part of the necessary outfit for locomotive mechanics. This step has entirely improved the working conditions of this group of professionals.
Between 2013-2015 within the framework of the collective contract liabilities a committee responsible for satisfying work complaints has been created.
You mentioned that Georgian Railway Workers Union should adopt a position of the leader of such unions in the region. What experience does the Union have in this regard?
We care about satisfying the interests of the railway workers not only in Georgia but also outside the country. We have been invited to Armenia twice by the request of the Armenian Railway Workers Union. Through negotiations, we have achieved signing of a contract between Armenian Railways’ Workers Union and the Armenian Railways administration. This contract obliges Armenia Railway’s administration to create a joint committee between the two.
Georgian Railway also actively cooperates with Azerbaijan Railways; we often partake in cultural activities together.