fbpx

Georgian paramedics protest working conditions and pay

17 January 2023
Paramedics and ambulance drivers protesting in Tbilisi on 17 January. Image via Interpressnews.

Paramedics and ambulance drivers have taken to the streets to protest deteriorating working conditions and inadequate pay.

The protest took place in front of the Emergency Situations Coordination and Urgent Assistance Centre  in Tbilisi on Tuesday, and was supported by the Medical Trade Union.

The protesting emergency medical staff were demanding a 100% increase in their wages and the dismissal of managers at the Emergency Coordination Centre. 

This is the latest in a series of protests held by ambulance crews since May 2022. 

On Monday, Health Minister Zurab Azarashvili said the government was unable to meet their demands as there were ‘nine more agencies operating under the ministry’.

‘If everyone demands double their salary, of course, everyone can, but it should be consonant to what we have the ability to pay,’ Azarashvili said. 

Giorgi Bostoghanashvili, a paramedic who took part in Wednesday’s protest, told Mtavari Arkhi that the minister’s statement was ‘unnacceptable’ to them. 

Advertisements

‘[When] we demand that our salaries are increased and our economic situation is somehow improved, the situation of our families is improved, we get an answer that it turns out they will not be able to raise our salaries because other [medical services] will want to raise their salaries’, Bostoghanashvili said. 

Irakli Amiranashvili, the chair of the Trade Union of Medical Workers, claimed that after the employees demanded the increase in wages, they were ‘punished’ with reduced end-of-year bonuses. 

What do the authorities say?

Emergency medical staff first demonstrated this year on 11 January to protest decreased shifts; overtime, which provided an extra source of income, was limited to only seven or eight shifts a month.

At the time, Amiranishvili accused the Ministry of Health of attempting to exclude the unions from negotiations between them and employees.

He also noted that paramedics were not covered by medical insurance.

‘COVID is raging and ambulances are no longer disinfected; patients and medical staff are at risk of infection’.

After the protest, the Emergency Situations Centre denied claims of deteriorating working conditions, and listed measures that were ‘carried out to improve the working conditions of employees’.

‘Overtime pay was changed and increased, which was determined by 12% of the hourly salary; Overtime pay for emergency medical personnel on holidays was established and was determined at a rate of 125%.’

‘The employees of the centre received a three bonuses; as of 2023, the salaries of other civil servants and the employees of the centre have increased by 10%,' the statement reads.

The centre also promised to provide an improved health insurance package to its employees in 2023, and added that they were prepared to ‘continue meetings’ with employees unhappy with their working conditions.