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Ukrainian miners demand payment of wage arrears

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24 October, 2019The Ukrainian government has set aside money to pay wage arrears, but unions will protest outside parliament until the money owed to  more than 30,000 coal miners is paid.

On 29 October, coal miners will come to Kiev from all regions of Ukraine to picket the parliament until their demands to eliminate wage arrears are met. 

Two IndustriALL affiliates in Ukraine, the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine and the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers of Ukraine, are mobilizing their members for this mass protest action, as the total wage arrears now amount UAH 1,172 million (US $47 million). 

"Miners are extremely exhausted physically and psychologically as they haven’t received money for three months and have to protest",

said Mykhailo Volynets, the chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine. Some wage arrears date back to as far as 2016. In 2019, the average wage of a coal miner in Ukraine is UAH 15,000 (US $600).  

The state-owned coal mines of Ukraine employ 52,000 workers, said Victor Turmanov, chairman of the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers of Ukraine. The majority of these workers are suffering from the months-long unpaid wages.

A protest in Severodonetsk on 11 October

Within the last few months, trade unions and workers have held protest actions against wage arrears across Ukraine in the Donbas, Luhansk, Lviv and Volyn regions. 

A protest in Lviv

Meanwhile trade union leaders held meetings with representatives of the government and the parliament of Ukraine demanding immediate measures to solve problems of state-owned coal mines. As a result, the government of Ukraine submitted a draft law On Amendments to the State Budget of Ukraine for 2019 that allocates an additional UAH 1 billion to cover wage arrears at state-owned coal mines. 

On 18 October, the draft law passed in the first reading at the parliament of Ukraine. It will take time until this law is finalized and signed by the president. The trade union leaders expect this to happen next week during the protest actions in Kiev.

However, time is moving on, and according to Mykhailo Volynets, on 1 November the wage arrears will increase by UAH 500 million (US $20 million). 

Therefore, the unions have prepared another draft law for the allocation of an additional UAH 1.5 billion (US $60 million) to pay coal miners' wages until the end of the year. It is expected that this draft law will pass the registration next week and will then go through the standard procedures in the government and the parliament, said Victor Turmanov.

Mykhailo Volynets said the coal miners will travel to Kiev with a one-way ticket and protest until the decision to eliminate wage arrears is made.  

IndustriALL Global Union supports the struggle of its Ukrainian affiliates and coal miners for elimination of wage arrears and timely wage payment, and urges the Ukrainian authorities to do all possible in order to cover all coal miners' wage arrears as soon as possible and avoid wage arrears in the future.