Students, trade unions, and women mark international workers’ day in Tbilisi

2 May 2017
May Day march in Tbilisi (Luka Pertaia/ OC Media)

Hundreds gathered in central Tbilisi on 1 May to celebrate International Worker’s Day, and to demand better labour conditions for workers.

Activists held three separate rallies in Tbilisi, and later joined forces to demand an ‘effective labour inspection mechanism’, to defend women against discrimination at workplaces, and to urge the government to include social rights in the upcoming constitutional changes.

The first demonstration started at the the Georgian Government Chancellery building at 13:00, where around a dozen women’s rights activists were demanding a ‘gender-sensitive labour inspection mechanism’ which would guarantee fair protection of women’s rights at workplaces. Left-wing group ‘Women’s Gaze’ and the larger ‘Georgian Women’s Movement’ organised the event, in demanded of a ‘gender sensitive’ labour code, as women often face discrimination in the workplace.

They were joined by a group of vendors affected by the fire on 30 January at the Bavshvta Samkaro market, who have held sporadic protests in front of the chancellery building since.

May Day March (Mari Nikuradze/OC Media)

According to Georgia’s National Statistics Office, the average salary for women is only 64% of that of men.

[For further details, read OC Media’s article about the ‘need for labour inspection reform’]

The second demonstration started outside the main building of Tbilisi State University on Chavchavadze Avenue. Student group Auditorium #115 gathered in front of the university at 14:00 to celebrate Labour Day.

‘Solidarity to the most oppressed class of our society — workers’, ‘Which side are you on — the banks, or the people’s’, protesters shouted out.

Students were demonstrating against labour rights violations in the country. There are no official statistics on the number of fatal workplace accidents so far in 2017, but data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs shows that 58 people died and 85 were seriously injured as a result of occupational accidents in 2016. Since the ministry started producing statistics in 2011, 270 workers have died and 776 have been injured.


Auditorium #115 started marching to Rose Revolution Square, where they joined with a third demonstration at 15:00. Members and supporters of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC), along with other left-wing groups (Solidarity Network of Tbilisi, Constitution for Equality, and others) had gathered at the square.

[For a more detailed synopsis of Georgia’s left-wing protesters, read OC Media feature story from earlier this year:  Are Georgia’s disparate left-wing protesters consolidating into a coherent political force?]

By 15:00, all the groups started marching through Tbilisi’s main Rustaveli Avenue and gathered in front of the former parliament building, where leaders of the GTUC addressed the demonstrators. Only one member of parliament, from the Social-Democratic party of Georgia showed up at the demonstration.

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