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Resume working of Agara factory – protest movement

20.04.2018

 
Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

On April 18, on the 48th day of their protest, about 500 dismissed employees of the Ltd Agara Sugar Factory decided to walk from Agara to Tbilisi and continue their protest in front of the Government’s Chancellery. The protesters said as the government did not pay attention to their protest in Agara, they will arrive in Tbilisi and will request meeting with the PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

“We did not stop action during 48 days and nights but nobody reacted. Our main request is to resume work of the sugar factory and to restore the dismissed workers to working places. Our requests are not fulfilled and decided to start protest movement. We will arrive at the Chancellery and will continue actions there until our requests are satisfied. Today we started the movement, we are walking to Tbilisi. We are ready to walk 70 kilometers if our requests will be satisfied,” Zaza Alborishvili said.

Before they started movement, representative of the Ministry of Economics and Development of Georgia and deputy business ombudsman Levan Kalandadze met them. The latter told the protesters that the sugar factory is a private business and the state cannot directly interfere in their activities.

“Many issues need agreement. The state cannot directly interfere in the private business and cannot order them anything. Considering that, we need to find the solution to meet the interests of both parties. These factors dragged out the process. There are meetings and readiness to work out compromising options; both the state and the investor will compromise,” Levan Kalandadze told the protesters but his statement was not enough for the dismissed workers and started protest movement. 

“We are in extremely difficult situation. We were dismissed in November last year; we have loans in the banks and cannot pay them; banks appealed the court and they sequestered all our properties,” the protesters said.

Deputy business ombudsman Levan Kalandadze said next week they are meeting the representatives of the Agara sugar producing company, Azerbaijani investors, to discuss the issue. As for bank loans, Kalandadze said, the banks are ready to postpone their bank responsibilities for a while.

The administration of the Agara Sugar Producing Company made a statement about suspension of the working process on March 19. 
“From October 1, 2017 the quota for the export of white sugar was cancelled for European states that drastically increased the import of the white sugar from Europe in Georgia, that was already quite intensive process since 2016 DCFTA agreement. Consequently, price on white sugar reduced and the white sugar produced by Agara factory could not compete with it. As a result, from November 1, 2017 we stopped the factory and it moved to the conservation regime. The company thanked all employees for their hard work but unfortunately we stopped labor contracts with them in accordance to the Labor Code and paid compensations to the dismissed employees (up to 1 million GEL). The owner, who has invested tens million GEL in the factory, is eager to resume the work of the factory and does all his best to achieve it. He is negotiating with the legislative and executive authorities. In order to resume the work, it is necessary to adopt some laws in the country that cannot happen soon. If the price of the sugar raw materials will fall on the international market, the owner is ready to immediately resume working of the factory that is more likely to happen. We had similar experience in June 2017.”

The details about the agreement between the government and the company management will become known in the end of the month.

The protesters said they will not stop protest until the factory resumes working.

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