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GCTU Protests Over Unlawful Attacks
Against Georgian Trade Union Leader
9 August 2004

Mr. Mikhail Saakashvili President of Georgia

Cc.: Ms Nino Burdjanadze Chairperson of Parliament
Mr. Zurab Zhvania Prime-Minister of Georgia
Mr. Zurab Adeishvili General Procurator of Georgia

Dear Mr President,

The General Confederation of Trade Unions has learnt that Irakli Tugushi, President of our member-organisation in Georgia, the Georgian Trade Union Amalgamation (GTUA), has been subjected to unlawful and dangerous actions. The leader of the national trade union centre affiliating the majority of the countryís workers was seized in the street and forwarded by force to the General Procuratorís Office where he was given a notice advising him that criminal proceedings had been instituted against him on the basis of alleged facts of misuse of trade union property.

The mere fact of proceedings being instigated against a trade union leader on such a basis is a flagrant violation of the internationally approved standards with respect to trade union rights and freedoms. In conformity with these standards the trade unions are self-governing public entities carrying out their activity in accordance with national laws and their own Statutes. The GTUA is an officially registered public organisation that has been functioning since the establishment of independent Georgia and has been contributing substantially to the regulation of social and labour relations in the Republic on the principles of social partnership. All issues relating to the procedures and efficiency of use of trade union property are a matter of internal concern of the trade unions.

We also express our deep indignation at the absolutely unacceptable form of action by the representatives of the law enforcement authorities. GTUA President Irakli Tugushi is a prominent figure in the trade union movement of the Commonwealth of Independent States whose positive role is widely recognised in our countries and throughout the world. Such treatment of a highly respected trade union leader insults all his numerous colleagues in the trade union community and casts aspersions on those who inspire and connive at such unlawful actions.

The GCTU would like to draw your attention, Mr. President, to the fact that the GTUAís rights to the possession, use and disposal of trade union property have already been challenged by certain officials among the previous leadership of the country. As a result of their unlawful actions these issues even became the subject for examination in courts of the highest instance, including the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Georgia, in 1997 and 2003. In both cases, the courtsí ruling was in favour of the trade unions thereby confirming their lawful rights to the property created by workersí contributions during many years.

The above-mentioned facts are undoubtedly well known to the instigators of the new round of persecution of Irakli Tugushi. In this context, the attempt to reanimate the case having no real perspective in court looks like a flagrant act of deterrence shortly before the next GTUA national Congress.

It would be a great disappointment for the GCTU, its social partners in the CIS inter-state structures and various authorities and business community in the CIS countries to learn that in Georgia, whose leadership has declared the advent of a new stage of development of democratic society, certain zealous officials allow such unlawful actions to be taken against mass workersí organisations and their leaders.

We urge you, Mr President, to intervene in the current situation, ensure strict compliance with the laws and prevent any limitation of trade union rights and persecution of union leaders.

Yours respectfully,

Vladimir Scherbakov
     General Secretary, GCTU