IndustriALL Global Union expresses its concerns as dozens of mines stand idle and thousands of miners have lost their jobs in the Ukraine, with many being forced to flee their homes in the past few months.
The Donets Basin, also known as the Donbas, was until recently the important coal-mining area in the Ukraine and a major contributor to the economy, providing for around 40 per cent of gold and foreign currency inflow.
However, the Donbas is at the heart of the military conflict with pro-Russian separatists, which began in April this year. A reported 64 out of 104 mines in the region have stopped operations due to the fighting or damage from military fire, leaving almost 100,000 miners out of work.
Up to a third of workers have quit their jobs at some mines, most of whom are under the age of 40, leading to concerns over who will operate the mines once peace returns.
Wage arrears for June and July amount to 347 million hryvnia, or US$ 26.8 million, and wages for August also remain unpaid.
Neither are workers and retired miners receiving free domestic fuel to which they are entitled to by law. As a result, around 100,000 coal-mining workers and thousands of retirees in the Donbas area have virtually no money and no domestic fuel at the beginning of the cold season.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry, Ukraine has already lost 3.4 million tons of coal that could have been produced at the idle enterprises.
Consequently, for the first time in 15 years, Ukraine is importing coal. "If today we bring coal from abroad, tomorrow we will destroy our mines," said Mikhail Volynets, the Chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine.
The situation in Ukraine was a major topic for discussion at the ITUC World Congress in Berlin, Germany in May 2014. In her Congress Plenary Statement on Ukraine, ITUC’s general secretary, Sharan Burrow, said: "The main repercussions (of the conflict) are primarily and directly affecting the ordinary people - the continuing disruption of their lives on a daily basis; dysfunctional communities and civil structures; and the mounting uncertainty for their future in the years to come."
"Our affiliates’ reports about the desperate state of the mining industry in the Ukraine are a major concern to us," said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. "IndustriALL offers its utmost solidarity to the miners in the Ukraine, and demands an immediate restoration of peace for the benefit of all people.”