Two Journalists Quit Formula TV to Protest Dismissal of Cameramen

On February 3, it was announced that the FormulaTV channel fired up to 25 cameramen who had been on strike since January 31, demanding a wage increase. Subsequently, two Formula journalists – Marta Kurasbediani and Keti Khidisheli, also quit the channel in protest of the “smear campaign” against the “fair protest.”

What did the cameramen demand?

In a letter sent to MediaChecker, a media-focused news outlet, the dismissed cameramen claimed that they had offered their management a compromise option for a wage increase to spread the increase over several months; however, the channel neglected their proposal.

The cameramen said that instead of solving the problem, they were humiliated and received “a categorical refusal” to increase their wages, which prompted them to go on strike.

TV Formula’s initial reaction

A lawyer for Formula TV told Media Checker that the cameramen violated the legal norms necessary for a strike, according to which “strikers must first approach the state and an employer to appoint a mediator between the parties, while the right to strike arises only 21 days after the appointment of a mediator.”

“In this particular case, the protest was launched first; they did not fulfill their duties and then informed us in writing about their protest and of their demand for a wage increase.”

Nana Intskirveli, the head of the Formula TV newsroom, told Netgazeti that the cameramen approached Director General, Zuka Gumberidze on January 31 with a request to raise their wages to GEL 2,500 after which they refused to perform their duties.

Intskirveli also said that before the strike several cameramen had conveyed to her told that they were seeking a wage, but she could not imagine that this would trigger their protest. “There has not been a single month when the workers did not receive their wages in full,” she stressed.

“We have always wanted to get a raise, but we are working in such a mode, there is a trial pending and we do not know how it will end. The TV station is not profitable at the moment… I do not know, probably the management knows better if there is a way for a wage increase. Four cameramen who worked as interns with miserable wages had received a 100% salary increase. There was no possibility to increase the wages for other employees,” she added.

TV Formula’s Official Statement

On 4 February, Formula TV issued a statement on the recent dismissals of its staff. Noting that the general public is aware of “the pressure, persecution and financial limitations on the income of independent mass media”, the channel insists that it has never failed in its obligations to its staff.

The statement notes that the cameramen, who demanded the pay rise on 31 January and were told by the company that it was impossible, went on strike the next day, 1 February. Over the course of the next three days, the channel called on the workers to fulfill their contractual obligations and negotiated with the cameramen, both in person and in writing, offering to find alternative solutions and to consider a possible pay rise “for individual employees according to their work performance, skills and responsibilities”.

The statement goes on to say that these offers have not been reciprocated. The statement referred to the Georgian Labour Code, which requires strikers to undergo a 21-day conciliation period before going on strike. The strikers’ actions put the TV station in a very difficult situation and “caused serious damage”, as it has since struggled to operate with limited resources. This was followed by warnings and finally the dismissal of the workers, according to the Formula TV statement.

Dismissed Cameramen Statement

Later the same day, Formula TV’s sacked workers issued their own statement. In it they say that the aim of their protest was to improve working conditions and that their actions had been constructive. According to the cameramen, their wish was to resolve all issues within the company and that they would accept an initial wage increase of only 10%. In response, the management humiliatingly and “straightforwardly rejected all our demands” and even insinuated the involvement of outside forces in the process, the dismissed workers said. They also point out that their pay from the company is very low and disproportionate to the hard work they do, as the minimum wage for cameramen is only 500 lari, “and out of 25 cameramen only six had 2500 GEL a month, which the company claims is an average wage in the company”.

The statement said that on 3 February, the sacked workers wrote to the company’s management again offering a compromise with a gradual increase in wages, but as they found out later that day from the company’s statement, they had all been sacked.

In their statement, the cameramen point out that the company is trying to portray them as unwilling to engage in dialogue and emphasise that they have offered the Formula management several alternative ways of resolving the problem, none of which has been accepted. Taking into account the importance of the free media in the country, they express their willingness to enter into negotiations if this dialogue allows them to discuss social and labour issues and is conducted with respect for their dignity and in a businesslike and fair environment. 

Meanwhile, the strike continues. The cameramen are demanding an apology from the company’s management for their insulting behaviour, their reinstatement and an improvement in their working conditions.  They are also simultaneously consulting with lawyers and planning for legal action.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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