Unrest at Evolution Georgia, from scandals and controversies to an impending strike

Lea Hogg 2 weeks ago
Unrest at Evolution Georgia, from scandals and controversies to an impending strike

Online gambling service provider Evolution Georgia is facing a major labour strike. The company, a Swedish entity listed on the Stockholm stock exchange, is known for its services to various high-profile online casinos worldwide. It boasts a workforce of approximately 8,000 employees.

The impending strike, scheduled to commence on 12 July is expected to involve at least 5,000 employees. The workers’ representatives announced the strike last week, citing a number of grievances. These include unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, harassment from management, and inadequate remuneration.

For several months, the employees have been engaged in negotiations with the company management, seeking improved working conditions and better pay. However, these talks reached an impasse.

The situation within Evolution Georgia took a turn for the worse following the exposure of internal communications among the company’s management team. These communications, revealed through a number of screenshots, also contained sexist, racist, and discriminatory remarks directed at employees.

 

George Mamulaishvili, Head of Administration at the Georgian Gambling Association spoke with SiGMA News to provide some insights on the ongoing labour disputes at Evolution Georgia.

“Recently at a trade union conference in Tbilisi, the unsatisfactory working conditions at Evolution Georgia were addressed. As a representative of the Georgian Gambling Association, it is challenging for me to comment on this situation.”
GEORGE MAMULAISHVILI

Mamulaishvili (photo above on the left), acknowledged the multiple controversies surrounding Evolution Georgia, including a trade union conference held earlier this year in Tbilisi to address the company’s unsatisfactory working conditions. He noted the challenges in commenting on the situation, given his role primarily involves operators, not providers.

However, he offered a general observation, pointing out that every organisation is governed by labour laws in its employment relationships. He highlighted the role of Georgia’s Labour Inspectorate in monitoring companies’ compliance with contractual terms and conducting regular inspections. While he could not confirm or deny any violations concerning working conditions at Evolution Georgia, he affirmed the company had been inspected more than once.

Addressing the issue of discrimination, Mamulaishvili drew attention to Georgia’s stringent stance. He pointed out that any form of discrimination is dealt with severely, with a dedicated court in place to address discriminatory remarks and harassment.

On the topic of data leaks, he noted that Georgia has recently tightened its laws on personal data privacy and enhanced the authority of the Personal Data Protection Inspectorate, indicating that the matter is under further investigation.

Mamulaishvili stressed that the relationship with employees begins with a contract and ends with state regulation. He expressed confidence that if any entity infringes upon the working conditions of employees or citizens, the relevant authorities will respond to these violations, as they have done in the past.

Evolution’s dire conditions reported by Georgian Press

Adding fuel to the fire, Mautskebeli, a left-wing online magazine, published a video allegedly filmed in a small restroom at Evolution Gaming, a subsidiary of Evolution Georgia. The restroom, used as a break room by janitors, was reportedly equipped with a single bean bag for seating, positioned facing a toilet. This is where the janitors were said to have their meals.

In response to the escalating controversy, Evolution Georgia issued a statement on a Wednesday, denouncing the offensive communications and pledging to conduct an investigation. The company expressed its commitment to resolving the issue and taking appropriate action. It also stated its efforts to ensure that all employees uphold and respect the company’s shared values.

Giorgi Diasamidze, (photo above on the right), the chair of a local union known as LABOR, announced last week that the strike would initially involve up to 5,000 participants. He revealed that the union and the employees of Evolution had been negotiating for improved labour rights at Evolution Georgia for two years.

Diasamidze criticised Evolution Georgia for exploiting university students and called for societal intervention. He also noted that the attitudes encountered during the negotiation process mirrored those seen in the leaked conversations.

The decision to strike follows a period of mandatory mediation between the union and the company, which, according to LABOR, yielded no results. On the same day, the Social Justice Centre, a rights group based in Tbilisi, called on the Labour Inspection Service to respond appropriately to the employees’ demands.

Evolution Georgia has previously come under fire for its labour conditions. In March 2020, the company laid off 1,300 employees, attributing the decision to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the Social Justice Centre filed a lawsuit against the company on behalf of 14 of the terminated employees.

Moreover, in 2022, Georgia’s then-Public Defender, Nino Lomjaria, reported instances of sexual harassment at the company. Employees claimed to have received sexually suggestive and humiliating messages.

This impending strike has brought to light the urgent need for improved labour conditions and fair treatment of employees in the online gambling industry. The ongoing struggles faced by workers worldwide in their quest for safe working environments, respectful treatment, and fair compensation is shocking. The outcome of this strike could potentially set a precedent for similar labour disputes in the future.

 

SiGMA News spoke with George Mamulaishvili, a ten-year veteran of the gambling industry and a key figure in shaping Georgia’s gambling legislation. Formerly a Financial Director for a leading Georgian gambling company, Mamulaishvili has developed a broad skill set, including negotiation, business planning, and management. He is knowledgeable about both the operational and legislative aspects of the gambling business, including online and offline casinos, slot clubs, and sports betting. Additionally, he is a trusted consultant for E-Wallets and Payment Systems, reflecting his comprehensive understanding of the industry’s financial aspects. His expertise makes him a valuable resource in the dynamic world of gambling.

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