Chiatura Striking Miner Resorts to Self-Harm

On June 16, the 11th day of the Chiatura miners’ strike, one of the protesters has sewn his mouth shut in an extreme form of protest. Today marks the fifth day since ten protesters began a hunger strike.

This extreme measure was in response to a statement issued by the miners’ employer, Georgian Manganese LLC. The statement offered the employees the option to cease protests, return to work, and have their bonuses and benefits determined based on the economic efficiency achieved as a result of their efforts.

The Facebook page of the protesting miners, “Magaroeli,” reported on June 18 that one protester had sewn his eyes shut, while another had cut the veins in his hands. The page also announced that on June 19 at 16:00 the miners will hold a rally in Tbilisi, in front of the Parliament.

The statement said that another round of negotiations had been held between the Georgian Manganese company and those workers who did not agree to the changed working conditions, with the participation of a mediator. The company agreed to all of the workers’ demands, except for the pay increase and the return to the old working hours.

In addition, “Georgian Manganese” has made an offer to all its employees who are willing to return to work to ensure that they receive full salary compensation. For those who prefer to wait until the end of the mediation process before returning to work, the company will extend the special working arrangement until August 1 and reimburse 60% of their salary.

Public defender visits the miners

The Public Defender of Georgia, Levan Ioseliani, met with the striking miners of Chiatura on June 15 to listen to their concerns about working conditions. The protesters asked for the Public Defender’s assistance in mediating the ongoing situation.

Following the meeting, Ioseliani expressed his concern about the protesters’ hunger strike and highlighted the absence of a doctor on site to monitor their health. He stressed the importance of the ongoing events, as they directly affect the fundamental human right to work. Ioseliani assured that his office is actively involved in the process and is doing everything in its power to facilitate an agreement between the parties. While acknowledging the protesters’ willingness to make concessions, he urged the other side to carefully consider their demands.

What do the miners demand?

The non-governmental organization “Social Justice Center” released a statement explaining the demands of the miners.

The organization says that since 1 February, the company “Georgian Manganese” has been implementing a “temporary working mode”, which involves the closure of mines and shafts, resulting in workers receiving only 60% of their wages. This temporary arrangement, which was originally due to end in May, has caused difficulties for the miners in meeting their bank obligations.

In addition, the company’s proposed new plan for determining employee performance involves measuring the distance travelled within the mine during a shift, known as “longitudinal-metric” terms, instead of the previous measure based on the mass of ore extracted, known as “tonnage”. The miners unanimously claim that the new plan is unrealistic and unachievable. They argue that attempting to meet the requirements would either be impossible or would require compromising health and safety standards, putting their lives at risk.

The Centre also points out that the miners have raised concerns about the company’s blatant disregard for health and safety regulations and systemic failures. They highlight a number of issues, including the lack of proper equipment and protective clothing. Workers also face physical challenges as they are required to manually move heavy equipment weighing 120-130 kg, often relying on just two people. Pressure levels in the mines are not properly monitored, broken tractors emit harmful emissions, and the emission-reducing water system is also faulty. Dust levels are not measured after explosions, ventilation systems are inadequate and safe distances from explosions are not set, among other problems.

The miners taking part in the protest are campaigning to improve working conditions and address key environmental issues affecting their towns and villages. Specifically, the workers are demanding that environmental regulations and the interests of the local population be taken into account in open-cast manganese mining. Open pit mining, a less technologically advanced method that involves the excavation of large areas, has had a negative impact on both the local community and the environment.

In addition to their previous demands, the miners have raised concerns about paid leave, the quality of accommodation and food. They are calling on the company to facilitate their immediate return to work, and expect the company to compensate them for the inadequate wages they received during the production stoppage. The miners claim that they are being denied the right to paid leave as provided for in the Labour Code.

Note: This news was updated on June 19 at 11:35 a.m. to include information regarding the additional self-harm incidents among the miners and the announcement of the rally.

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


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