A large-scale personnel purge continues in the culture sector

A large-scale personnel purge continues in various structural units of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Youth of Georgia. This process started in March 2021 after the appointment of a new minister -Thea Tsulukiani. So far, more than 100 employees of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the National Museum of Georgia have been dismissed. The National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation's subsequent round of reorganization came to an end on November 1, 2022. As a result of the reorganization, about 25 people became victims of gross violations of labor rights, a hostile work environment, and mistreatment. It should be mentioned that the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation has undergone restructuring twice in the past year, which confirms that the reorganization processes have been implemented without evaluating the needs, understanding the aim, and clear approaches to achieve it. Some of the employees were released at the beginning of 2022, and some lost their jobs as a result of the second reorganization in October of the same year.

The reorganization implemented by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation was substantially comparable to the one that took place in January 2022, and it even followed a similar path. Based on the order of the General Director of the Agency dated October 7, 2022, a competition commission was established to determine the competence of employees in the reorganization process and make consequent decisions. The majority of the commission members were lawyers and administrative personnel, who lacked the specialized knowledge needed to evaluate the employees' operations in a meaningful way. According to the same order, for evaluating the competence and skills of the employees, the obligation to conduct an interview was determined. However, the criteria for evaluating the workers at the interview stage were not specified by the order.

The interview stage, according to the dismissed persons, was formal, humiliating, and confrontational. As a result, the commission assembled for the interview did not evaluate the employees' knowledge and experience. In contrast, the members of the commission tried to find out whether "trusted" personnel worked in the agency or not. The commission was not interested in the employees' extensive professional and academic backgrounds.

The attitude of the Ministry’s leadership toward the preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage is especially alarming. The main concern of the dismissed employees is the release of professionals from the agency and leaving the most important work in the hands of those who do not have proper knowledge. All of this is a threat to the protection and preservation of the heritage of Georgian culture.

ISFED provides free legal aid to many individuals who have been illegally dismissed from various institutions of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Youth. The organization will continue to protect the interests of dismissed persons at the court and all relevant institutions to allow the people with relevant competence and experience to continue working for the protection of the monuments of cultural heritage, museum exhibits, and national treasures of Georgia.

We call on the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Youth of Georgia, Thea Tsulukiani, to stop the illegal dismissal of employees and implement the Ministry's personnel policy in accordance with the law and best public administration practice.