About Thirty Social Workers Dismissed Amid Reorganization
About thirty social workers will be dismissed from the 1st of February as part of the ongoing reorganization at the Social Service Agency under the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. The decision comes almost a year after hundreds of social workers across the country went on strike for higher wages and better working conditions back in March 2019.
The dismissed social workers will receive two-month salaries as a compensation.
News about the dismissal emerged on January 29 after Keti Khutsishvili, representative of the social workers’ trade union, told Netgazeti that the Ministry did not explain a concrete reason of their dismissal and cited reorganization as the only argument behind the decision.
The dismissed social workers told Formula TV that they were informed about the planned reorganization, noting however, that they did not know they might lose their jobs. The sacked social workers say they are not aware of criteria based on which they were fired.
The Labor Ministry’s position
Giorgi Tsotskolauri, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, explained that the reorganization started at the Social Service Agency in early March 2019 and that social workers have been provided with “comprehensive information about the process.”
“I have personally explained them the reasons behind their dismissal…as well as the situation that may follow the reorganization,” he told reporters.
Tsotskolauri also noted that “this dismissal is a temporary measure” and following reorganization a new competition will be announced for vacant positions and the dismissed social workers will be able to apply.
What does reorganization envisage?
As part of the reorganization at the Social Service Agency, the function of guardianship will be separated from the Agency and transferred on a new agency for “State Care and Aid for the Victims and Aggrieved Persons of the Trafficking.” The latter will be subordinated to the State Fund for Protection and Assistance of (Statutory) Victims of Human Trafficking.
Meri Maglaperidze, director of the Fund, noted that changes will result in all service providers coming under a common umbrella. Maglaperidze has a conviction that the outcome of the step “will be positive.” She also said that a total number of social workers will not be reduced. On the contrary, she stated, new positions will be established and relevant competitions will be announced to fill these vacancies.
“It will be the leading function for our service, and we will do our utmost to strengthen this direction related to childcare,” Maglaperidze told reporters.
Response of Georgian Association of Social Workers
In response to social workers’ dismissal, Georgian Association of Social Workers released a statement on January 30, calling on the public agencies to respond to some of their questions. The Association is particularly interested in knowing the Agency’s plans in connection with the cases of dismissed social workers, whether it will be possible to provide timely and high quality services to the beneficiaries, especially in critical and urgent situations; what criteria were used while sacking the social workers. The Association is also interested to know the criteria for the selection of new employees for vacant positions.
The Association of Social Workers hopes that the public agencies will respond timely to their questions, adding that they expect Sophio Kiladze, chair of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, to have an adequate reaction to the case.
A group of six civil society organizations, including Social Workers’ Union, Human Rights and Monitoring Center (EMC) and Open Society Georgia Foundation released a joint statement on January 30, saying that “dismissal of highly-skilled social workers, citing “reorganization and obscure reasons” is absolutely unacceptable, especially as “the social service system, facing a lot of challenges, vitally needs more highly-skilled personnel to ensure its smooth functioning.”
The signatory organizations demand the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia:
- To substantiate the need of social workers’ dismissal amid reorganization and explain the criteria for their dismissal.
- To ensure transparent reorganization process and engagement of social workers and trade unions in the process.
- To carry out the process of reorganization in line with the December 11, 2019 legislative amendment and to appoint social workers in the agency without any competition.
- To immediately revise social services and social work, to plan, based on relevant research and engagement of field experts, all necessary steps needed for implementing reforms in this sphere, including in terms of creating new services.
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