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Ukrainian coal miners protest across the country

18 December, 2015On 10 December, Human Rights Day, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, mobilized its members across the country to demand unpaid wages, state support for coal mining enterprises, and safe working conditions.

Protesters also demanded that authorities reject the draft of the new Labour Code. The following day, several unions picketed the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev with the same demands.

Miners launched short-term warning strikes and picketed state authorities not only to achieve the payment of wage arrears, but also to draw attention to the problems in the coal mining industry and to prevent its complete destruction due to the end of state support. They blame Ukraine’s Energy and Coal Industry Minister, Volodymyr Demchyshyn, for the decline in domestic mines and for purchasing coal abroad. They are demanding his resignation.

In Pavlograd, more than 1000 miners of the West Donbass region, accompanied by the town residents, went on a protest action in front of the town council. They demanded that the President and the Prime Minister withdraw the new Labour Code draft, increase living wage from 1 January 2016 in accordance with the inflation rate, abolish the pension tax, lower utility charges and improve social guarantees.

In the Volyn region, miners went on a warning strike and stopped operation of all mines for one hour on 10 December.  On the following day, around 200 Volyn miners, members of the Coal Mining Workers’ Union of Ukraine and the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, both affiliates of IndustriALL, blocked the road to the Yagodinsky customs point for a few hours demanding payment of wage arrears. At Novovolynskaya Mine No. 1, miners have not been paid their wages for four months. According to Mikhailo Volynets, the chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, the total wage arrears in the coal mining industry exceed 700 million hryvnia, an equivalent of US$29.4 million.

Around 100 miners rallied in Lviv in front of the regional administration. In the Donetsk region, miners marched along the central street to the main square in an attempt to meet Dobropolye city authorities representatives, who failed to go out. 

Miners of another Donetsk region mine, Krasnoarmeyskugol in the town of Dimitrov, stopped operations for one hour demanding the payment of wage arrears now amounting to around 120 million hryvnia, an equivalent of US$5 million.

According to Alexander Abramov, the local union chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine at Krasnoarmeyskugol, the lack of state support meant the mine only achieved 33 per cent of the planned coal production volumes in 2015, and even this amount of coal has not been taken away on time.

The enterprise owes millions of hryvnias to the city budget, the pension fund, and the social insurance fund.

“Reduced production volumes lead to reduced wages and headcounts. Dismissed workers and their family members are no longer able to ensure their children have a decent life and future,” said Abramov. “Social and economic problems at Krasnoarmeyskugol, the town’s main employer, increase in the price of goods utilities, and a lack of retraining programs for ex-miners will result in a mass unemployment, poverty and a rise in crime. We are fighting the closure of the mines and for support of the domestic coal mining industry to ensure Ukraine’s energy independence.”  

Miners have promised to stage further protest actions in Kiev if their demands remain unheard.