Coal miners in Tkibuli began strike to demand improvement of working conditions in the mine, which saw three explosions over the past year leaving nine miners dead and ten injured, it was reported on February 2.

Coal mine in Tkibuli in western region of Imereti is operated by Saknakhshiri, a daughter company of Georgian Industrial Group, a conglomerate founded by lawmaker from the ruling party, Davit Bezhuashvili – a brother of Gela Bezhuashvili, chief of the Georgian intelligence service.

The strike, spearheaded by Metallurgical, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers’ Trade Union, follows a two-hour “warning strike” by miners on January 31, when the union released a lengthy list of demands on which it was calling on Saknakhshiri management to start talks.

Demands, as listed in the statement of the union, include “permanent employment contracts” with miners; pay rise in line with inflation over the past three years; repaying of bank loans and credits of those miners who have died or injured as a result of three blasts in 2010 and 2011; improvement of working conditions through providing modern safety systems, as well as new protective workwear and equipment for miners; new pay rates for extra time work or during night-time working; paid 40-day-per-year vacation leave; introduction of pension and compensation systems for the families of miners who have died or injured during the work. The list of demands also include call for allowing representative of miners’ trade union to participate in investigation of incidents in the coal mine, which resulted into death of miners.

Zaza Gordeziani, a senior manager from the Georgian Industrial Group, which owns mine operator company, told news agency, InterPressNews, that the trade unions were misguiding and misleading miners inciting them to start the strike. He also said that payment scheme of workers had already been revised in line with the inflation.

In a letter sent to President Saakashvili on January 27, the miners’ trade union complained that its calls for the mine operator company to engage in dialogue over improvement of working conditions was left unheeded by the Tkibuli coal mine management. According to the letter families of those nine miners who had died as a result of three separate explosions in 2010 and January, 2011 were providing with funds to cover funeral expenses, but were left without further compensation for loss of breadwinner. It also said that those ten miners who were injured were still unable to get back to work and their families also remained in grave social conditions.

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