Ukraine: Domestic Workers Win As President Signs New Law

Ukraine: Domestic Workers Win As President Signs New Law

Soon after organizing to advocate for formal recognition as workers and protections at work, domestic workers in Ukraine won a significant victory when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a new law on May 22 regulating domestic work and affording new protections to domestic workers.

Significantly, the law recognizes and defines domestic work and domestic workers, and affords them all labor rights and guarantees, including normal working hours, overtime compensation, daily and weekly rest periods, and paid annual leave. It guarantees domestic workers’ right to a safe and healthy work environment and makes employers responsible for ensuring safe working conditions. The law also establishes an employment contract as the primary means of formalizing the working relationship and sets a minimum age for domestic workers.

Last year, the first survey to evaluate the working conditions of Ukraine’s domestic workers found that lacking contracts and formal recognition left most respondents vulnerable to low pay, wage theft, confusion about employment status, exclusion from the country’s pension system and minimal capacity to exercise their right to freedom of association. Most reported working without formal terms and conditions of employment.

“This is an important development for Ukraine’s human rights protection and Euro-integration efforts,” said Tristan Masat, Solidarity Center Ukraine country program director. “Domestic and care workers are among the most isolated and vulnerable groups in the economy, and with so many Ukrainians working in-household jobs in the EU, it’s valuable to see the government take a strong and progressive position on the rights of these workers in Ukraine.” 

Tetiana Lauhina, founder of the Union of Home Staff

While the new law allows domestic workers and employers to codify the terms of employment in a contract and protects domestic workers under Ukraine’s labor laws, much work remains to enforce the law and secure better protections for domestic workers.

Tetiana Lauhina, founder of the Union of Home Staff, said the law has been a long time in coming. “We have been waiting for this law since 2015. It’s a strong step in the right direction.  Next, we’d like to see the International Labor Organization’s Convention 189 on domestic workers ratified by Ukraine. Its ratification and implementation is a major goal for the Union of Home Staff.”

The Solidarity Center Honors the Legacy of Laurence ‘Laurie’ Clements

The Solidarity Center Honors the Legacy of Laurence ‘Laurie’ Clements

The global labor movement lost a friend and advocate, and the Solidarity Center a dear colleague with the passing of Laurence “Laurie” Clements on April 19 after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. Laurie is survived by his wife, Inja, a son, two daughters and two step-daughters.

Before Laurie’s impactful tenure at the Solidarity Center, he was a respected figure in the academic and union spheres. Starting his career at the University of Iowa Labor Center in 1984, he rose to director in 1994. Simultaneously, he served as president of the American Federation of Teachers local union and secretary-treasurer of the Iowa State Federation of Teachers. He further honed his expertise and leadership by facilitating training programs, seminars and workshops in several Balkan countries from 1996 to 2000.

Laurie joined the Solidarity Center in 2001 as country program director in Serbia. His dedication and passion for our mission took him to the Middle East and North Africa region in 2005, where he ran programs in Iraq, Kuwait and Lebanon.  His leadership and invaluable contributions to our work, which we remember with deep gratitude, are a testament to his unwavering commitment. 

Those fortunate enough to have attended Laurie’s training programs were witness to his unique ability to connect with participants. Our union partners, in particular, who engaged in his inspiring and thought-provoking sessions, left with a renewed sense of commitment to building union strength and solidarity. 

Laurie’s fervor for organizing to advance worker rights was not just a professional pursuit but a deeply personal one. It was ignited at a young age when he witnessed the plight of workers in his neighborhood, who often suffered from work-related injuries and deaths at the docks and shipyards in his hometown of Cardiff, Wales. This early experience instilled in him a profound commitment to occupational safety and health protections.

In his recently published autobiography, “A Poem on Life,” he wrote about his childhood growing up in a government-owned “council house” with his family of five, witnessing the solidarity of the working people in his neighborhood and the power of unions to improve their lives. 

These were families who had a strong understanding of collective action,” he wrote, “and they understood the bonds of solidarity that were expressed in the industrial action of the trade union movement. The improvements in their lives had come primarily from unionization.”

Laurie Clements was a great trade unionist and a wonderful person. It was a privilege to work alongside him and call him a colleague, friend, and brother.

Philippines: Union Leaders Lobby for Daily Minimum Wage Hike of $3

Philippines: Union Leaders Lobby for Daily Minimum Wage Hike of $3

Philippine trade union leaders are calling for an across-the-board daily minimum wage increase in the private sector to alleviate the economic burden workers currently face. 

House Bill No. 7871 calls for a wage hike of 150 PHP (approximately 3 US dollars). Amid high inflation, poor job quality and a lack of new and decent jobs, supporters argue that immediately passing and enacting the wage increase is critical to support workers’ economic recovery. 

During a press conference in Quezon City on Thursday, Benjamin Alvero, chief policy officer of the Center of United and Progressive Workers (SENTRO) said, “This wage hike is not just a matter of economic development but also of social justice. The wage hike that we currently have at the regional level is just to catch up with inflation, and that is not enough.” 

“There is an urgency to pass this legislated wage hike as the first step in the right direction towards addressing the disparity between the family living wage standard and current minimum wage rates,” Philippine Labor representatives said in a joint statement.

Last month, the Philippine Senate approved a minimum wage increase–the first Congress-legislated wage hike since 1989—of 100 PHP (roughly 2 US dollars).

STATEMENT: SOLIDARITY CENTER CONDEMNS ATTACK ON KENYAN LABOR LEADER DR. DAVJI BHIMJI ATELLAH

STATEMENT: SOLIDARITY CENTER CONDEMNS ATTACK ON KENYAN LABOR LEADER DR. DAVJI BHIMJI ATELLAH

Yesterday, Dr. Davji Bhimji Attellah, the General Secretary of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU), was reportedly attacked by police while leading a lawful demonstration in protest of the delayed posting of over 1,000 medical interns critical to addressing the nationwide shortage of healthcare providers. Additional protesters were seriously injured when the police fired teargas canisters at the assembled protesters, causing a stampede.

Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau offered this statement:

“The Solidarity Center stands with our partners in the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union in strongly condemning excessive and unnecessary force by police on KMPDU Secretary General Dr. Davji Attellah. We must stand firm in our defense of the rights of all workers to peacefully assemble, express their concerns, and engage in protest without fear of this kind of violence and retaliation. 

This effort to intimidate and retaliate against workers and their elected leaders must be called out for what it is: a violation of fundamental human rights that are guaranteed by international law and by the Kenyan constitution. Our thoughts are with Dr. Attellah, the other injured protesters and the KMPDU and as we call for those responsible for this attack to be held accountable and brought to justice for their actions.”

Belarus: Regime Still Raiding, Jailing Labor and Democracy Activists

Belarus: Regime Still Raiding, Jailing Labor and Democracy Activists

Belarus has become “a conveyor belt of torture against political prisoners,” where worker and human rights activists face daily raids, arrests and lengthy prison terms for fighting for democracy and the right to freedom of association, said the wife of a leading dissident last week. 

Natallia Pinchuk, whose husband is Nobel laureate and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, visited the Solidarity Center and spoke to staff about her husband’s imprisonment and the Belarus government’s repression of trade union activists. 

Known for his leadership of the Viasna Human Rights Center–which he founded in 1996 to support political prisoners and their families–Bialiatski is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence at a brutal penal colony in Horki for receiving international financial support for the organization. He was among a dozen activists the Belarus regime arrested in July 2021 during raids of activists’ homes and the offices of civil society organizations. 

“Ales represents the tragic situation of political prisoners in Belarus,” Pinchuk said. She added that the government imprisons 10 to 15 people every day, a considerable number for such a small country, and still conducts raids against and imprisons union activists.

Pinchuck said she has been unable to get information on Bialiatski’s condition since he was placed in solitary confinement in October. He is ill, requiring daily medication that Pinchuk cannot provide to him because political prisoners are prohibited from receiving outside materials. Compounding the situation, political prisoners face violence perpetrated by prison officials. 

“Political prisoners are beaten in showers. Other prisoners beat them regularly, and prison officials are instigating those beatings,” she said.

Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko, has held power since 1994. In 1996, he changed the constitution to consolidate power in the office of the president, which sent thousands of Belarusians into the streets in protests that were violently suppressed. He later claimed a landslide victory in August 2020, sparking widespread claims of fraud and massive protests and strikes. Lukashenko’s regime responded to the 2020 protests with ruthless repression, leading to deaths, injuries and over 10,000 arrests. 

The International Trade Union Confederation has ranked Belarus among the 10 worst countries in the world for workers in its 2023 Global Rights Index, citing the forced dissolution of unions and targeted arrests and imprisonment of trade unionists. More than 30 trade union activists are imprisoned in Belarus because they fought for workers’ rights. Others, in danger and unable to work, live in exile abroad.

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