BTC workers outraged by oil company's violations. Promised highest standards are sorely lacking in Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia – Georgian workers on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) are having their rights violated by the BTC Company, the BP led consortium in charge of the project. Trade unionists working on the pipeline’s Georgian section are extremely concerned that both Georgian labour laws and employment standards laid down by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are being overlooked by BTC Co, under extreme pressure to maintain its construction schedule.

The Georgian Trade Union Amalgamation is holding a press conference in Tbilisi to discuss these issues this coming Monday. 

BTC workers in Georgia are currently required to work 12-14 hours per day, including weekends and holidays, to secure a minimum subsistence salary. The workers are demanding an increase in their hourly wage rate.

“What we have here is forced labour, prohibited by ILO convention 29 on forced labour, adopted in 1930,” commented Gocha Alexandria, senior advisor of the Georgian Trade Union Amalgamation. “BTC Co needs to take urgent steps to ensure that labour rights are protected.”

The workers also hope to highlight ongoing problems relating to contracts, working conditions and discrimination against local workers. Strikingly, BTC Co is not even following the labour related parameters set out in its own Citizen’s Guide for the project.

Keti Kvinkadze, a lawyer representing Tbilisi NGO Green Alternative, stated, “The existing contracts violate Georgian labour laws. The company is free to terminate an individual worker’s contract at any time without compensation. When the IFC and the EBRD came to help finance this pipeline, it was claimed that their presence would guarantee the highest international project standards. Where are these banks now?”

The IFC and the EBRD are the two international development banks which between them are providing USD 500 million in loans for the BTC project. Their funding decisions paved the way for further financing from export credit agencies and a syndicate of 15 commercial banks.