The Georgia Fair Labor Platform is disturbed by the recent incident at Retro restaurant in Batumi, where video footage showed an employer beating a staff member who complained about his working conditions. The Platform believes that the existence of this type of workplace violence in the service sector is inextricably linked to a lack of preventative inspections by the labor inspectorate.
The police arrested the employer on June 5, and the court released him on bail yesterday. After the incident, 15 Retro employees left their jobs in protest. They cited a range of grievances, including low pay, extended probationary periods, humiliating and degrading treatment, and excessive workloads. They also said their conditions worsened after the employer hired several Russian nationals, who they claim performed less work under much better conditions.
After the incident, the labor inspectorate visited Retro and identified critical labor rights violations. The restaurant was fined and suspended as a result.
Workers in the service sector endure some of the worst – and most systemic – labor rights violations in Georgia. According to data from our Wage Theft Calculator, over 91% of surveyed service workers reported at least one form of wage theft by their employer. More than 74% reported unpaid off-the-clock work and more than 59% reported not being able to use their vacation time. Worsening conditions in the service sector have been a concern of labor unions and civil society groups for years. Despite this, they continue unabated.
The labor inspectorate has the power to address this issue – and to prevent labor violations from escalating into violation confrontations – by conducting more timely and high-quality preventive inspections in the service sector. Workplaces similar to Retro no doubt exist throughout the country. Conditions should not have to boil over into physical violence before the labor inspectorate takes notice.
In light of the above, the “Decent Labor Platform” calls for the following:
- Do not allow Retro to resume operations until violations are completely corrected. Subsequently, the restaurant should be monitored with regular follow-up inspections.
- Develop a system of timely, thorough, and effective preventive inspections for the service sector.
- In parallel with the activation of the summer tourist season, launch a large-scale preventive inspection of the service sector and an information campaign about labor rights.
THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE AND THE MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS:
- Ensure a prompt and effective investigation of the incident at Retro, taking into account the circumstances, and ensuring appropriate accountability.
This statement is endorsed by the following Fair Labor Platform members:
- Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)
- Open Society Foundation Georgia (OSGF)
- Guild – independent trade union in the field of culture and media
- Social Justice Center
- Tbilisi Metropolitan Independent Trade Union – “Ertoba 2013”
- Trade Union of Science, Education, and Culture