10 February, 2014Ukraine has been dominated by street protests since November 2013 caused by the President’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. Below are some initial comments from IndustriALL's Ukrainian affiliates...
“We have a political crisis in Ukraine which could cause an economic crisis and a further decrease in living standards for workers,” warns Grigory Olkhovets, IndustriALL Global Union Coordinator in Ukraine and the President of Radio Electronics and Mechanical Engineering Workers' Trade Union of Ukraine (REMEWU).
Demonstrations in Ukraine became wide-scale after the violent dispersal of the protesters in Independence Square in the centre of Kiev on 30 November 2013. The House of Unions building, where the REMEWU offices are located, is situated right on Independence Square and it was the first to be occupied by protesters on 1 December 2013.
"Protesters come inside to get warm. They use the bathrooms, the canteen and there is a first-aid station in the building,” reveals Olkhovets, adding that the unions have agreed to let out some office space to the protestors. “However, lately they have started to occupy some personal offices. At night they sleep on the floor in the corridors (but) relations are OK. We thought these inconveniences in the building wouldn't last long. But two months have passed. Now it is obvious that nobody is able to say how long it will go on.”
“Opinion on the protests is divided”, says Vasily Dudnik, a member of the IndustriALL Global Union Executive Committee and the President of Automobile and Agricultural Machinery Workers Union of Ukraine (AAMWU). “In the western regions, local unions support the events and participate in protests. In the eastern and southern regions, the unions support the right to protest, but they believe they shouldn’t result in violent clashes,” he continues.
"Local unions decide themselves what they think about the events and if they participate,” adds Dudnik. “Certainly, such division in the society has a negative affect on the unity of the union and we are doing our best to prevent a union split because this will ultimately have a bad effect on workers irrespective of their political opinions.”
“Accumulation of serious social problems is the deeper reason of the protests,” believes Dudnik. "Our union supports the EU integration of Ukraine and recognizes that the citizens of Ukraine have right to defend their demands in various protest actions. The duration of the ongoing confrontation will largely depend on the political will of both parties. The situation is getting worse because the protests which initially began as pro-European, turned into a race for power in Ukraine".
Mikhail Volynets, President of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) backs the demonstrations for other reasons: "NPGU and KVPU (Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine) actively participate in the peaceful protest actions making social and economic demands. NPGU and KVPU demand transparency in the issues of the coal industry and payment of social arrears. The workers of the Lviv Coal Concentration Plant, an affiliate of NPGU, have not yet received their salaries and social benefits for the entire quarter of the last year".
IndustriALL Global Union expresses solidarity with the workers of Ukraine in their struggle for social and economic interests and hopes for a quick and peaceful resolution of the political crisis in Ukraine.