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Workers sue Georgian government over ‘degrading conditions’ in Germany labour programme

22 December 2021
Jaba Chachanidze. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

A group of Georgians who took up temporary seasonal work in German farms under a state programme have filed a lawsuit against the Georgian State Employment Promotion Agency, claiming they were subjected to degrading treatment at the hands of farm owners.

Registration for the Temporary Seasonal Jobs Program in Germany began on 15 February, with joint implementation by the Georgian Employment Promotion Agency and the German Federal Employment Agency. 

On 9 May, a group of 24 people arrived in Stuttgart for their seasonal employment under the programme. The Georgian labourers took a video showing their living conditions upon arrival, sending it to the Georgian Embassy and the Employment Agency.

Two months ago, OC Media interviewed one of the group, who said he faced backbreaking labour and squalor in Germany, only to return with less than 10% of the money he was owed.

[Read on OC Media: Voice | ‘They did nothing to help, they abandoned us’]

Jaba Chachanidze told OC Media that before arriving in Germany, the Employment Agency had promised participants they would earn  €5,000 ($5,600) working on a strawberry plantation in Germany for three months.

‘As a rule, I should not have earned less than €1,300 ($1,500) a month’,  Chachanidze said, explaining that Georgian labourers in Germany had to pay for their housing, food, and clothes under the programme, and yet they were paid much less than promised.

However, appeals made by the Georgian workers to the embassy or the Employment Agency fell on deaf ears.

Chachanidze and 19 other programme participants relocated to a farm near Bremen, but the conditions they were promised in Georgia were not met there either.

After realising they were being paid less in Bremen, Chachanidze decided to return home to Georgia with a large debt.

‘Now I have a debt of €1,100 ($1,200) — I borrowed €800 ($900) before I left for Germany, and I borrowed another €300 ($340) when I arrived there. Every second of my life, I ask myself how I can possibly pay it all back.’

Legal action against the state agency

According to the programme’s official documentation, any citizen of Georgia between the ages of 18 and 60 is eligible to apply for seasonal work. 

Georgian employees who went to Germany for temporary work were to be paid €9.30 ($10.50) per hour by the farms. Yet, they found that several contract conditions had been violated, including the terms of their wages.

Upon their return to Georgia, 11 participants of the temporary work programme filed a lawsuit against the State Employment Promotion Agency at the Tbilisi City Court, demanding financial compensation for their work.

The case’s first hearing was held on Tuesday, while the next one is scheduled for 12 April.

Tamila Gabaidze, a lawyer from the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation who is representing the 11 Georgian workers, told OC Media that her clients are demanding compensation for their salaries and additional moral damages they had suffered in Germany.

‘Each of them had to live and work in degrading conditions’, Gabaidze said.

Gabaidze said they were demanding that the agency pay each plaintiff three months’ salary, €4,000 ($4,500), which they would have received in Germany, in addition to compensation of ₾3,000 for moral damages.

The State Employment Promotion Agency did not return our request for comment.

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