Shushanik Chubinidze, 22, Sazano (the Terjola region)
“Two years ago, when I was a second year university student, I decided to find a job and combine work and study. I got to be interviewed by SPAR Georgia. According to the job description, I was to attend training for a few days before getting to work. However, I was immediately sent to a week-long on-the-job training and forced to start working, i.e. doing something I had never done before. According to the contract, I was to work in shifts – the first day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the second day from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the third day from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. (a night shift).
Let me describe the working conditions for you. On the very first day, when I went into a changing room, I found out that the Abashidze outlet (where I worked) of SPAR Georgia did not have a storeroom. Both new and expired products were kept in one tiny depository which served as a manager’s office, a place for storing the safe, and a dining room for the personnel. On the first day, I could hardly squeeze in through the open door as the staff was there, having lunch – some were sitting on the boxes, and some were standing in the corners. The manager, who was sitting behind a PC, looked up at me and asked: “Are you new?” It looked like a scene from a movie. They then discovered that there were no clothes for me, so they gave me a vest that the previous employee had left behind. It was so filthy that I could not put it on. The next day, the manager gave me a shirt that he/she had worn. They ended up never ordering a new uniform for me… Besides, there was only one hat in the entire outlet and it was worn by 20 different employees. I worked in the prepared meals department too and covered my head with a plastic bag there. I kept receiving reproaches so I wore that dirty hat over the plastic bag.
The staff had one hour for eating and resting. However, we could never use it fully because, as I said, this small room was multifunctional, coupled with the fact that the outlet was constantly short of personnel. Even if the contract clearly described the work, I could never adhere to the working schedule mentioned above. In fact, I worked from 9 in the morning till 9 in the evening, and the following day, from 9 in the evening till 9 in the morning, i.e. 12 hours a day. I did not complain. I thought it was my first job so I was ready to endure things for a while… Sometimes, due to lack of personnel, I had to work 24 hours. I carried out four different functions, those of a cashier, a shop assistant, a line producer (prepared meals department assistant), and sometimes a cleaner, as the staff in our outlet of SPAR Georgia did not include a position of a cleaner. Also, the shop used to have, and still has, outdated cash registers that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. The equipment worked slowly, with glitches, causing long queues at cash desks and an additional stress for the cashier.
There was one incident worth mentioning. A delegation was arriving for inspection and we had to move everything that was arranged in the shop (an outlet of Spar Georgia) in violation of the standards into that so called storeroom/dining room/manager’s office, which had little space as it was. Of course, I did not have a uniform that I was to wear according to the standard (they did not provide one for me), so I was placed in that storeroom together with the nonstandard products. I have no idea how I managed to stand on the beer boxes. Finally, the box gave way and I fell down… There was another incident when an administrator was hit by a shelf in head while working. It’s fair to say that we worked under conditions that were hazardous for health and life but neither the company nor the government acted on it. Only the internal monitoring was periodically held in the company. We were always warned in advance, so we prepared for it.
According to the contract, my gross monthly salary was 377 lari. I was to receive 307 lari of net salary. I worked for three months and I have actually never received this amount. The first month’s pay was 109 lari, the second month’s pay totaled 295.61 lari, and in the third month (which marked the total of 208 work hours), I received 148.64 lari.
Obviously, 148.64 did no equal 307 lari. When I wanted to know the reason for reducing my pay, the manager explained that the shop had shortage and 40% was deducted from our salaries. Interestingly, the shortage of the outlet included some of the products that it had never received for selling, such as 365 cheesecakes that I’d never seen in the network during the three months I worked there.
Deduction of 52% from my salary was the last straw for me. I wrote a resignation letter and left, having made up my mind to do something about it. First and foremost, I wanted to share my experience with my friends and other job-seeking students. When I was paid 148.64 lari instead of the promised 307 lari, I posted about my work experience on Facebook and went to bed. It turned out that many people saw and shared the post. I realized that I could contribute to a social change. For this, I had to fight more vigorously and apply to court. I went to the Young Lawyers’ Association and we filed a lawsuit. Over a year has passed since the first court hearing. The next court hearing is set for the 9th of June.”