About 400 employees of Social Service Agency went on strike across Georgia today, rejecting their employer’s decision late on January 16 to increase salaries starting February.
The agency said social agents would receive 60% raises, while other 1000 entry- to mid-level employees would get pay increases of 40%-60%. The agency explained that the hike in remuneration would affect both components making up a social agent’s salary – base pay and commissions per examined case.
According to the agency, after the increase, base pay for social agents would amount to GEL 400 (USD 130), instead of GEL 250 (USD 81), while senior social agents would receive GEL 700 (USD 227) instead of GEL 550 (USD 178). Per examined case, the social agents would receive GEL 10 (USD 3.2) instead of GEL 6 (USD 1.9).
The numbers fell short of those demanded by the employees, who called for 100% raises in monthly salaries of the social agents and senior social agents as well as specialists and senior and chief specialists.
The agency did not publicly address other demands, including inflation indexing of salaries and signing a collective bargaining agreement with the participation of a labor union.
It claimed the decision was made within the scope of its “structural and organizational development plan” and as a result of active internal consultations in recent months.
The workers, who had filed official notice about the strike on January 14, rejected the proposal within hours and vowed to “continue to fight for decent wages and [working] conditions.”
The Solidarity Network —an independent labor union of healthcare and service sector workers— argued the proposal was worse than the offer they received back in November, during mediation between the employees and the Social Service Agency.
Sopo Japaridze, one of the leaders of the union, said today that the pay rises were initially made as an offer to the workers, but the Agency then unilaterally decided to announce the increases as decided. She added that the workers were still deliberating on the offer when the Agency issued its statement on raises.
The strike kicked off at 9:00 on January 17. Later in the day, the Social Service Agency employees gathered outside the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs for a protest rally.
The Agency operates under the Health Ministry and administers state social and health protection programs. It provides social assistance payments, state pension, assistance to people with disabilities, among others.