440 miners from the Kryvyi Rih Iron-Ore Combine (KZRK) mines in Ukraine, have started an underground protest demanding higher wage.
On 4 May, workers on the night shift in the Rodina, Guardiiska, Ternovskaya and ten miners from the Oktyabrskaya mines did not rise to the surface as their shift ended. Workers on the following shift have joined them, and operations have been stopped.
In a joint statement to the shareholders of KZRK, the miners said that salaries need to increase from the current 10,000 UAH (US$ 380) to up to US$ 1,000, because of the increased cost of living.
Company management calls the protests unfounded and has threatened the workers with a variety of sanctions, including closing one of the mines, using the redundancies to increase wages for workers in the other mines.
The KZRK president Fedor Karamanits has been tasked with negotiating at the Rodina mine. He has gone down into the pit at a depth of 1,315 metres and remains there, discussing the offer of a 20 per cent increase, which the miners have refused.
IndustriALL affiliate Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) supports the strike, and encourages its members to help the protestors to protect them from pressure from authorities, police and criminal gangs.
Chair of the NPGU Mychailo Volynets says:
"Miners understand that the funds for the development of mines weren't allocated recently. There was only pumping out the resources of enterprise. So they decided to seek justice through the protest. Miners are holding meetings underground now. NPGU is doing everything to help them to fight for their rights".
The Kryvyi Rih Iron-Ore Combine is 99 per cent owned by the company Starmill Limited (Cyprus). Despite big profits, last year KZRK was one of the top-100 largest taxpayers in the country, miners’ wages were last increased in 2014, following a round of protests, which brought to 15 per cent increase.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary comments,
“It is a shame that the owners and shareholders so far fail to address KZRK miners demands adequately. We strongly condemn the acts of blackmailing of miners who are threatened with closure of one of the KZRK mines. We express our solidarity with the protesting miners and demand the authorities, owners and shareholders to deal immediately with the situation at Kryvyi Rih Iron-Ore Combine and find a fair solution of the conflict”.