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Metro train drivers on strike, June 4, 2018. Photo: Screengrab from TV Pirveli video

Mayor Says Metro Strike Illegal

Metro train drivers went on strike yesterday demanding increase in salaries, which Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze called “a blackmail and vague, absolutely unreasonable ultimatum.”

Tbilisites who have encountered the signs “the Metro is closed, please use the buses,” posted at the stations today, had to use buses or mini-buses this morning, causing heavy traffic all across the city.

The Metro employs 6 300 people. Ertoba 2013, a professional union of metro train drivers that leads the strike has been calling for amelioration of the working conditions of the staff and an increase in salaries, which now stand at 1 100 – 1 200 GEL (445 – 485 USD). Mayor Kaladze has dismissed the earlier warnings of an impending strike by Ertoba 2013, saying that it was “up to the Tbilisi municipality to decide whether the stations are open or not.”

Tbilisi City Court’s ruling of 18 May 2018, allowed strike only in non-working hours – a decision that is challenged by a number of human rights NGOs as unconstitutional.

In their yesterday’s address, Tbilisi Transport Company encouraged the metro drivers to take the court ruling into consideration, ensure safe transportation of the citizens and avoid “illegal actions.”

The Metro workers have reportedly complied with the ruling, launching the hunger strike on June 3. Although the Metro drivers have showed up to work this morning, the health commission has declared them unfit following the hunger strike.

“That the metro stations do not operate today and do not serve to transportation of the commuters, can be evaluated as a blackmail against own citizens,” Kaladze said in today’s press briefing, adding that although the staff of the metropolitan is doing highly important work, the Mayor’s Office cannot make “illegal and unequal decisions.”

Ertoba 2013 released a video in response, with Robert Margishvili, one of its representatives, addressing the Tbilisi Transport Company, responsible for the capital’s municipal transport, to specify whether they want to be the leaders of the “slaves” or “free, hard-working and decent people.”

“We have used our last constitutional right. We had to do what we did,” Margishvili underscored adding that “what we demand should be fulfilled.” He further stated that the drivers want to fulfil their duties and even work overtime for the citizens behalf, but that they do not earn enough money compared to their “hard labor.”

Tbilisi Metro that has been operating in the Georgian capital since 1966, has two lines and 23 stations and serves approximately 600 thousand passengers daily, from 6 am till midnight.

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