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Ukraine: Unions demand strong industry development strategy

“We need a clear industrial policy” was the main message of IndustriALL’s national affiliates’ meeting on 18 March in Kiev on the eve of the presidential elections in Ukraine. The adopted Joint Declaration entitled “Resolution on the development of national industry and solidarity actions of all-Ukrainian trade unions” will be communicated to the presidential candidates. 

The manufacturing industries in Ukraine continue to decline. Sergey Komyshev, IndustriALL’s coordinator in the country, reported that over the past few years, 2.5 million jobs were lost in the country, 80 per cent of which were in industrial sectors. In addition, the quality of the remaining jobs is deteriorating and health and safety regulations have been dismantled.

IndustriALL Executive Committee member, Valery Matov, said industry in the country is an important contributor to GDP, but the government of Ukraine is lacking a state industrial policy.

Despite the annual increase in the legal minimum wage, Ukraine has the lowest wages in Europe and millions of Ukrainians of working age leave the country seeking job opportunities abroad.

Furthermore, the country’s track record in trade union rights is getting worse. In 2018, Ukraine was one of the 25 short-listed countries at the International Labour Conference in connection with violations of ILO Convention No. 81 on Labour Inspection. In 2019, Ukraine is likely to be shortlisted again for discussion at the Conference in connection with violations of several conventions, such C95 on Payments of Wages.

Viktor Turmanov, president of the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers of Ukraine, and Natalia Levitskaya, vice-president of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, highlighted the heroic struggle of workers in state-owned coal mines against massive wage arrears. While coal miners engage in actions to seek payment of their wages, the meeting expressed full support and solidarity in their ongoing struggles.

The Ukrainian affiliates had an extensive discussion about the social dimension of progressing relations between the EU and Ukraine around the Association Agreement. The participants agreed that the relationship with the EU must have a strong labour dimension in advancing workers’ rights and constructive social dialogue.

The meeting welcomed the General Secretary of industriAll European Trade Union Luc Triangle who transmitted a solidarity message from unions belonging to the European federation and emphasized the importance of close relations and cooperation between the unions in Ukraine and Europe. He also said that if Ukraine wants to be part of the European Union, it should put in place higher social standards, modernize the economy, and fulfill the political and social norms of the European Union. 

The trade unions agreed to put on a series of activities towards joining the European Union.

The meeting also received solidarity messages from Western European trade unions. Speaking at the meeting, Reijo Paananen, General Secretary of Nordic-In, expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian unions in their struggles and noted that respect for democratic principles and the rule of law as well as the real fight against corruption were essential. Solidarity messages included IG BCE and IG Metall from Germany as well as OS KOVO of Czechia.

IndustriALL and its Ukrainian affiliates organized a press conference on 19 March to communicate the demands outlined in the Joint Declaration.

“As we approach the presidential elections, we want to make it clear that Ukrainian workers and trade unions are not alone. The global and European trade union movement has always given support and solidarity and we will continue do so in the future,”

said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary.

“While our Ukrainian affiliates campaign for better rights and working conditions for workers, IndustriALL Global Union, together with our European sister organization, will continue to give our support, particularly in liaising with the European Union and intergovernmental institutions, among other actions.”


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