Solidarity Center
Solidarity Center


Only a worker rights-based approach can ensure that Europe’s growing numbers of teleworkers can fully exercise their fundamental labor rights—including to decent work, which includes safe working conditions—said International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW) members Mihail Cebotari, Inna Kudinska, George Sandul and ILAW Europe and Central Asia Regional Coordinator Tamar Gabisonia during the launch of three new ILAW telework reports last week.

The webinar, centered on three new ILAW reports, surveyed the regulatory environment impacting teleworkers in MoldovaPoland and Ukraine.  Poorly regulated telework tends to shifts financial and labor rights risks onto workers, who can experience longer work hours and burnout, unsafe working conditions, and constant employer surveillance. Isolation, meanwhile, can increase workers’ vulnerability to exploitation, discrimination, harassment and other abuse, including domestic violence. And, say unions, without proactive measures teleworkers will likely have fewer opportunities to participate in union activities and develop the sense of solidarity that builds and supports collective power. 

“ILAW’s research findings allow all of us the opportunity to pursue better protection of teleworkers in our own countries and, through our participation in the network, to work on similar issues collectively,” says Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) Deputy Chairman and founding ILAW Board member Raisa Liparteliani.

“Telework is not a separate form of employment relations and, therefore, all workers should enjoy all labor rights equally.”

Due to the COVID-19  pandemic—and, in Europe, the war in Ukraine—the share of the employed population working from home has increased exponentially. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that approximately one in six jobs at the global level, and just over one in four jobs in advanced countries, could be done at home, including telework. By the end of 2022, an estimated 31 percent of all workers worldwide were to be fully remote or hybrid.

Report recommendations include:

  • In Moldova, to bring national regulations on remote work into line with the European Union Framework Agreement on Telework, ensure that telework is voluntary and reversible, and that teleworkers be adequately protected by effectively enforced health and safety regulations.
  • In Poland, to prevent the misuse of civil law contracts to deny teleworkers their rights under law, adopt clearer health and safety protections that balance the employer obligation to ensure worker safety with the privacy rights of workers, adopt provisions to address overtime work and ensure the right to disconnect, and institute mechanisms to tackle the systemic discrimination, violence and harassment often directed at remote workers.
  • In Ukraine, to implement and enforce regulations in conformity with the best European and world legislative practices on telework and remote work—including fully incorporating the principle of voluntariness in remote and home-based work, adequately addressing discrimination and health and safety risks, and protecting workers’ right to privacy.

The new reports are part of an ongoing ILAW research series on telework and worker rights, which includes a regional report on telework in the Americas, along with ten national reports on Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay, released in 2022. Research on telework in Mauritius and South Africa is forthcoming this year. The ILAW Network’s Future of Labor Law Wiki also contains model legislative language and analysis of how to regulate telework.

The Solidarity Center’s ILAW Network is a forum for labor and employment law practitioners who grapple with the legal and practical issues that directly affect workers and their organizations.



Solidarity Center
Solidarity Center


Flagging a high number of work-related deaths and life-altering injuries in the country during the first ten months of this year, Solidarity Center partners Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) and Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) are educating their members and leadership on how to better protect themselves at work despite an erosion of worker rights under martial law—and monitoring and pushing back on any further deterioration of the country’s labor legislation. While the increase in work-related deaths and injuries endangers all workers, those charged with restoring or rebuilding essential infrastructure destroyed during Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine are especially at risk.

“We support the Ukrainian government and people as they defend against Russian attacks, but weakening worker rights will not make that defense stronger,“ says Solidarity Center Europe and Central Asia Regional Program Director Rudy Porter.  “If workplace safety standards are ignored or not enforced, the increase in unnecessary workplace deaths and injuries will make defending the country more difficult.”

ILO member states, including Ukraine, are required to respect and promote all five ILO fundamental principles and rights at work, regardless of their level of economic development and whether they have ratified relevant conventions.

In the first nine months of 2022, 474 workers died in the workplace—half in war-related incidents—and 4,426 workers were injured in work-related accidents, according to data from Ukraine’s Social Insurance Fund. Even before the war, Ukraine had a high number of occupational injuries: On average, 4 000 employees suffer from work-related accidents in Ukraine each year, of which almost one in 10 dies.

Should workers be injured or killed, they and their families will struggle to access compensation from Ukraine’s Social Insurance Fund due to significant delays in the investigative process required to trigger payouts, say Ukraine’s unions. Although the State Labor Service (SLS) has proposed remedial measures to speed up such investigations, martial law provisions this year have reduced the SLS to an advisory-only entity that cannot effectively require employers to comply with remaining occupational health and safety protections, such as provision of adequate safety training and personal protective equipment. Under martial law, for example, and by order of the Ukraine Cabinet of Ministers starting in March, the SLS was required to suspend all unscheduled occupational safety and health inspections.

In heroic acts, especially on the front lines, Ukraine’s workers are risking life and limb to restore infrastructure such as electricity, roads, buildings and bridges. For example, last month a team of five repairmen in Ukrenergo reportedly worked more than six hours while suspended at a height of more than 300 feet in freezing cold, while risking artillery fire, to repair damage to a high-voltage overhead line.

To achieve European Union (EU)membership, which Ukraine is currently seeking, the country’s EU association agreement requires that the country fulfill several obligations, including occupational safety and health reform to ensure compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) health and safety conventions 81 and 129.

In a significant assault on worker rights, Ukraine’s parliament earlier this year moved forward with legislation that deprives around 73 percent of workers of their right to union protection and collective bargaining during martial law, despite strong national and international condemnation on the grounds that it violates key ILO Conventions.

More Attacks on Rights of Ukrainian Workers

More Attacks on Rights of Ukrainian Workers

In a significant assault on worker rights in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky last week signed into law legislation that deprives around 73 percent of workers of their right to union protection and collective bargaining.

“For more than 15 months, the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, in solidarity with other trade unions, with support of the international community, actively opposed promotion of the anti-labor draft law,” the Federation (FPU) said in a statement.

The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) stated, “KVPU will not tolerate a blatant violation of the rights of workers, their constitutional guarantees and international norms and standards.  We will continue the fight for workers’ rights.”

The law references “freedom of contract,” which the non-governmental organization Labor Initiatives says “provides ample room for employers to prescribe literally any provisions in a contract, while workers, desperate for jobs during a pandemic, will likely accept such provisions.” Labor Initiatives is a Solidarity Center partner that works closely with unions and other NGOs, analyzes labor laws and advocates for worker rights at the individual and national levels.

The law applies to Ukrainian companies with fewer than 250 workers, and is valid during martial law in Ukraine, but labor experts express concern that it may be extended.

The law, which amended the Labor Code of Ukraine, is the latest in a string of legislation targeting worker rights and the ability of unions to function freely. For the past two years, lobbyists have pushed laws in Parliament that reduce wages, limit the use of formal contracts that ensure workers have job stability and weaken their collective voice by targeting unions. Under the restrictions of martial law and the chaos of war, members of Parliament have passed many of these measures.

“Instead of having some greater protection of labor rights, greater protection of the people who are baking bread, washing dishes or cleaning the streets, since March we faced very regressive labor reform in Ukraine,” George Sandul, a Kyiv-based labor lawyer, said on the latest episode of The Solidarity Center Podcast, where he detailed the laws.

Global Opposition to Attacks on Worker Rights

The global labor and human rights communities have widely rallied in support of workers and their unions in Ukraine, many taking part in an online campaign to oppose the legislation.

The FPU points out that in 2021, the European Parliament indicated as part of the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement that Ukraine’s “measures to improve the business climate, attract direct investment and promote economic development cannot be implemented at the expense of limiting workers’ rights and worsening working conditions.”

With martial law prohibiting workers from public protest and strikes, the FPU, KVPU and other Ukrainian trade unions say they will challenge the law in Ukraine’s Constitutional Court, the International Labor Organization and other international and European bodies.

“We will also vigorously oppose dozens of other anti-labor and anti-union pieces of legislation that government lobbyists are trying to push through the Parliament,” the FPU says.

Bolt Delivery Drivers in Kyiv Demand Wages They Can Live On

Bolt Delivery Drivers in Kyiv Demand Wages They Can Live On

Despite often heroic efforts to deliver food under war conditions, Bolt delivery drivers in Kyiv, Ukraine, have seen a 60 percent cut in wages—and they are demanding the company take immediate action to boost wages and provide vehicle maintenance support.

Prohibited from striking while Ukraine is under martial law, the delivery drivers gathered recently at Bolt’s office in Kyiv to present the company with their demands, which include an increase in minimum payments from 84 cents per order to $1.36 per order, and a boost in per-kilometer pay from 24 cents to 41 cents to compensate for the rise in inflation.

“Our wages have been cut to the minimum,” a driver stated at the gathering. “Now they are trying to force us to work for pennies. It is almost impossible to feed one person on such a wage.”

Another driver said he must “work 14 hours a day, 27 days a month” to survive.

Ukraine delivery driver for Bolt in Kyiv, Solidarity CenterThe app-based workers also are urging the company to provide free or low-cost repair and maintenance for their vehicles, most of which are bicycles and motorbikes.

“Bolt Food does not compensate our work expenses in any way,” a driver said. “We bear the risks ourselves. We have to maintain transport at our own expense, we have to pay for fuel, spare parts—and all prices just skyrocketed but our wages were further reduced. These costs reach 70 to 75 percent of income at current prices.”

In addition, workers want Bolt to re-open several app features, such as one that enables drivers to see the client’s address before they accept the job. If the restaurant where they pick up the food is only a few blocks from the client, they only are paid for the short distance from the restaurant to the client’s location, even if they drive miles to get to the restaurant.

Earlier this year, Bolt Food riders in Lviv raised similar demands with the company after Bolt cut wages so drastically workers could not afford gas for their vehicles. Many Ukrainians relocated during the war to Lviv, a relatively safe haven near Poland’s border, and delivery drivers say Bolt took advantage of their plight as they desperately sought jobs to support their families. The delivery drivers won a wage increase July 5 that includes a boost in the amount drivers receive when delivering food during peak times, weekends, late hours and in bad weather, a feature Kyiv delivery drivers also are seeking.

Massive Job Loss and Attacks on Worker Rights

The company’s cutback in wages comes as more than one-third of jobs in Ukraine have been lost since the beginning of the war in February, according to an International Labor Organization report in May. The ILO projected job losses to reach 7 million, or 43.5 percent of the workforce, if the war continues.

Even as the war has decimated jobs and the economy, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law that would significantly erode employees’ rights in areas covering working hours, working conditions, dismissal and compensation after dismissal. The law makes it legal to fire employees who are on sick leave or vacation and allows employers to increase the work week from 40 hours to 60 hours, shorten holidays and cancel additional vacation days. A union’s rights also would be severely curtailed and employers would have the right to unilaterally cancel collective bargaining agreements.

Lawmakers say the legislation would apply only during war. But George Sandul, a lawyer with the Ukrainian worker rights organization Labor Initiatives, says unions and legal experts fear the law will not be revoked.

The legislation did not stem from the war. Similar proposals were pushed months before Russia invaded Ukraine, with the parliamentary committee for social policies and the Ministry of Economy pressing to radically change labor law to favor employers and restrict union rights.

Ukraine “Trade Union Lifeline” Wins Anna Lindh Memorial Fund Award

Ukraine “Trade Union Lifeline” Wins Anna Lindh Memorial Fund Award

The Anna Lindh Memorial Fund in Stockholm awarded a special prize to the Trade Union Lifeline in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Lifeline is run by an informal group of primarily young trade union activists from key economic sectors such as railways, public service, food processing, delivery services and the platform or “gig” economy which aims to utilize union networks to quickly move humanitarian aid through the country to areas of emergency need.

Logo of Trade Union Lifeline, Ukraine, Solidarity CenterThe Solidarity Center and its Ukrainian partner, Labor Initiatives, are key participants in the Trade Union Lifeline, and the Solidarity Center’s Kyiv office is the main hub for its activities. Since the beginning of the war, the Lifeline has worked to link workers in key industries with charitable organizations and other civil society groups to move food, medical supplies, and other needed items to war-impacted communities.  The LI’s Donbas office in Dobropillia has been a critical hub for this support and has helped thousands of refugees in the region find safety in other parts of Ukraine.

“The youth network Trade Union Lifeline has, through admirable relief efforts in Ukraine, shown proof of real union solidarity, not only for members but also broadly in Ukrainian society,” says Lena Hjelm-Wallén, chair of the Anna Lindh Memorial Fund.

The Anna Lindh Memorial Fund annually honors individuals and organizations that help others and strive for a more humane and just world.  The Fund was created soon after the assassination of Anna Lindh, a Social Democratic politician whose two-decade career included service as a member of the country’s parliament, the Riksdag, Deputy Mayor of Stockholm, and Minister of Environment and Foreign Affairs.

The Fund’s $5,550 prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm on June 16.

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