Several of fifteen miners of the Georgian Manganese in the western town of Chiatura have sewn their mouths in protest as the company refuses to fulfill their demands regarding increased salaries.
The miners went on strike on May 15, demanding a 50% increase in salaries, improved healthcare, working conditions and nutrition and banning the movement of the company’s heavy vehicles in the town, polluting the environment.
Georgian Manganese says it is sustaining 1 million GEL in daily losses and the state is losing half a million USD in exports due to the protest. However, they state a 50% salary increase “is inappropriate and unrealistic.”
The company says that the protest is illegal, adding that their lawyers will appeal to the court against the workers for violating their contract conditions.
“We have offered a 25% increase in salaries. The increase would be carried out at the expense of a decrease of administrative expenses. However, they refused to agree,” Financial Director of Georgian Manganese Merab Lominadze said.
He stated that the company employed 3,200 people and their average salary was 1,000 GEL ($359).
Workers say that they offered a 30% increase at least. However, the company stated that only a 25% increase was possible.
“We risk our lives on a daily basis for a salary which is too low, 500-600 GEL ($180-215). The company must be handed over to the state and the state must run it. We know the current leadership of the company and they will change nothing”, the miners said.
Georgian Manganese says that the 50% increase in salaries is impossible.
15 miners, who are on hunger strike, say that all of them will sew their mouths shut if their demands are not fulfilled.
Georgian Manganese says that the demands regarding the banning of its heavy vehicles in the town and improved food have already been met.
Members of the Georgian Dream ruling party and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who were in Chiatura on May 17, tried to mediate negotiations between the company and the miners.
However, no agreement was reached.
Former PM, current political secretary of the ruling party Irakli Garibashvili said that the miners’ demands were fair.
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze stated that the miners’ demands were “objective and fair” and urged the parties to come to the outcome as soon as possible, through the intensive dialogue.
Georgian Manganese, LLC (GM) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Miami, Florida-based Georgian American Alloys (GAA).
Based in Georgia, GM is the country’s top producer and exporter of silicomanganese.
GAA’s Georgian holdings are comprised of three divisions: GM’s Chiatura Manganese Mine, a manganese ore mining operation, GM’s Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant, a silicomanganese processing plant, and Vartsikhe, the hydroelectric facility which powers the Chiatura mine and Zestafoni plant.
Georgian Manganese says the Zestaponi plant may also suspend working due to the situation in Chiatura, as the operations of the two plants are connected. (Agenda/Ukrainian metal)