In Ukraine, the Solidarity Center supports democratic trade unions that face existential challenges caused by political gridlock and economic crisis.
|Ukrainian trade unionists practice skills in communication and outreach.
Independent unions began playing a significant role in Ukraine even before the nation's independence from the Soviet Union. A 1989 strike by the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU), led by Mikhail Volynets, was an early tremor in the breakup of the Soviet Union. Under Volynets’ leadership, the NPGU played a leading role in the Orange Revolution (November 2004-January 2005), a triumph of nonviolent civic action in which millions of people successfully protested wholesale fraud in the 2004 presidential election. As poll watchers, the miners helped ignite the mass protests by calling attention to electoral irregularities. Volynets, also president of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU, or KVPU), was elected to parliament in 2005.
Despite this victory of democratic forces, international standards of worker rights and democracy are not yet fully respected in Ukraine. Rule of law, freedom of association, and the right to organize remain subjects of contention. Employers and government authorities continue to harass, threaten, and otherwise act illegally against unions affiliated to the CFTUU (a Solidarity Center partner) and other independent worker groups. Both the CFTUU and the Soviet-legacy Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FTUU, or FPU) have lodged complaints with the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Political gridlock has impaired the government’s ability to address the broad range of challenges facing Ukraine, aggravating the effects of the staggering blow of the 2008 global economic downturn. The severity of the economic contraction is evident in the collapse of Kyiv’s formerly booming construction sector, and the dramatic rise of Ukrainian workers’ unpaid wages and salaries. Ukraine is facing a crisis fueled by economic freefall, political paralysis, and widespread immiseration. Democratic unions can play an important role in addressing this crisis, using their energies and influence to strengthen democratic institutions by promoting transparency, insisting on the observance of democratic principles, and encouraging non-partisan cooperation. The Solidarity Center supports Ukrainian union efforts to bring Ukrainian laws into compliance with international labor standards and promote those standards to the general population. Solidarity Center programs in Ukraine provide economic education and training to union leaders and rank-and-file members, and help to strengthen the capacity of the CFTUU Women’s Committee.
Ukraine: Worker Rights Under Threat as Democracy Dwindles
. May 23, 2013—Freedom of association and the ability of civil society organizations to fully function in Ukraine are in jeopardy as the country increasingly moves away from democracy. Only international attention and solidarity have slowed these disturbing trends. “There is constant pressure on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from oligarchs, media, the security system and the courts,” said Mykhailo Volynets, chairman of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU).
Ukraine: Union Leader Injured by Police during Protest in Kyiv.
July 10, 2012—Ukrainian union leader Valentyna Korobka was hospitalized with a concussion and other injuries after she was assaulted by police at a July 4, 2012, protest in Kyiv, according to the Free Trade Union of Entrepreneurs of Ukraine (FTUEU), which she chairs. FTUEU is an active democratic union, focused on street vendors, the self-employed, and informal workers. It is affiliated with the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) and the StreetNet International alliance of street vendors.
Unions and Businesses Jointly Protest Ukrainian Tax Code.
Opposition to Ukraine’s draft tax code intensified as small business owners joined union members from all over the country in a day of protest. The tax code, which has been passed by a parliamentary vote but not signed into law by the president, would “cause workers to become slaves,” says Mikhail Volynets, chairman of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, in the November 30, 2010, International News Bulletin
Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine Condemns a New Draft Labor Code of Ukraine. The code will worsen the life of Ukrainians and significantly narrow worker rights, says the CFTUU in its October 11, 2010, International News Bulletin. Also in this issue: warnings that increasing gas prices will increase poverty, fears that Ukrainian unions could pay a high price for a $15 dollar loan by the International Monetary Fund, and a recap of World Day for Decent Work activities.
Ukraine Unions Leading the Fight for Quality Health Care. The Solidarity Center's Alexander Feltham reports on the struggle of health care workers in Ukraine to gain better conditions for patients and a decent contract. He finds that hospital administrators regularly harass union members, deny promotions and cut the hours and salaries of doctors who speak out, and even bribe patients to complain about doctors who are active in the union. Cross-posted from AFL-CIO Now Blog
Ukrainian Unions Petition for Quality Health Care and Education. On May Day 2009 the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU) launched a public campaign in the province of Dnepropetrovsk to improve the rapidly deteriorating quality of health care and education, which undermines quality of life.
Ukrainian Unions Educating, Agitating, Organizing. In the February 2009 issue of its International News Bulletin, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine reports on the election of Svetlana Kozakova to the groundbreaking position of Women’s Section National Organizer; picketing and strikes by metro, factory, and auto workers over unpaid wages; and new leaders and members in the medical workers union.
Ukraine Labor Confederation Gains 2,000 New Members in August. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU) reports in the second issue of its International News Bulletin that 2,000 aviation workers joined in the month of August.
Ukraine Labor Confederation Launches E-Bulletin. With Solidarity Center support, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU) published the first issue of its electronic monthly news bulletin.
Workers Rights Briefing: Ukraine (2006). The Solidarity Center hosted an expert panel to discuss the March 26 parliamentary elections, and the outcome's effect on democracy and human and worker rights.
Solidarity Center Publications