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Ukraine: angry unpaid miners take action underground

31 October, 2018The tragedy of long-standing unpaid Ukrainian takes a new wave of actions underground. Angry miners, together with their union leaders and a parliamentarian, demand to pay out all the arrears in wages to miners for the period from June to September 2018 and for some months of 2015-2017.

On 19 October, 33 miners of the mine started their protest over unpaid wages underground at the depth of 600 meters. Leaders and activists of the NPGU locals gave their support to the protesters and supplied water, food, and medicines. Due to unhealthy and dangerous conditions, miners’ health deteriorated.

In particular, 31-year-old miner Oleksandr Cherkasov fainted several times and another miner had a nervous breakdown. They were transported to the hospital. Some other miners had to stop their protest for family reasons.

On 27 October, a rockslide happened near the area where miners of the mine named after G. Kapustin and a sympathizing member of parliament of Ukraine were holding their protest. Despite this incident and health problems 15 miners continued their protest and refused to go up to the surface until all the wages are paid out.

The coal miners are concerned with the approach of the country’s authorities. For instance, Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine in the middle of the protest approved a two-week leave of director general of the PJSC "Lysychanskvugillia". In reply miners demanded resignation of the director for failing to take any constructive steps and solve the problems with wage arrears.

Chairman of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) and the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU), an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, Mykhailo Volynets went down into the mine G. Kapustin PJSC "Lysychanskvugillia" and met protesters. Representative of the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine and company management also visited the miners.

Volynets said, “These miners show genuine courage and integrity during their struggle for justice and fair payment. But I am deeply concerned about their health and lives. During my stay underground in the mine, I talked to them and I couldn't help noticing how exhausted and tired they were. Some miners seemed to have health problems. The air and humidity in the mine are also a point of concern.”

The problem of wage arrears at the state-owned coal mines still remains and causes social tensions. In Ukraine, miners work in extremely difficult and dangerous conditions. However, their wages are not high. A skilled miner receives 8,000-9,000 UAH (US$280-320), but even these meagre wages are not paid in time.

Last week protest actions over unpaid wages took place at the mines of the SOE “Selydivvugillia” and SOE “Myrnohradvugillia”.

According to the received information, as of 29 October, wage arrears at state coal-mining enterprises amounted up to 685 million UAH (US$21.5 million). By 1 November the arrears can reach up to 1,2 billion UAH (US$42.6 million) as this is the time for payment of October wages.

The NPGU has reported the problem with wage arrears to some members of the Ukrainian Parliament and launched solidarity actions.

In his message of solidarity to NPGU, Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL said,

“We reiterate our full support and solidarity with the miners at the state-owned coal mining enterprises, and we join you in calling on the Government of Ukraine to pay in full wages in arrears without further delay.”

IndustriALL Global Union has also urged its Coal mining unions’ network to stand in solidarity with the resisting Ukrainian miners.