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Ukrainian Miners’ Union Get Heard at Coal Ministry Board

18 October, 2010

The leadership of the Coal Industry Workers’ Union of Ukraine (PRUPU) was strongly heard at a meeting of the Coal Ministry Board in Kiev on 15 October.

The Coal Ministry’s Board meeting was held under the instruction of Ukraine’s First Vice-Premier Andrei Klyuev, who said at a Cabinet meeting on 16 September that the challenges facing the coal industry must be addressed. The Vice-Premier’s instruction resulted from a report delivered by Victor Turmanov, PRUPU President, who vividly highlighted the most burning of the problems that besiege the industry’s workers and mine sites today.

There was no “quiet talk” at the 15 October meeting but rather strong words on the industry’s problems among the close circle of the Ministry officials and the heads of state-owned enterprises attending the meeting. Klyuev’s instruction stipulated that the Ministry Board meeting shall involve representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour, State Assets Fund, Ministry of Industrial Policy, Ministry of Transport, Ministry for Fuel and Energy, and the leaders of the Ukrainian coal miners’ union.

Victor Turmanov, PRUPU President

Raising wages was one of the main issues that the union raised at the meeting. In line with the effective law, the minimal wage in Ukraine has been raised to 907 hryvnas from 1 October, yet the actual wages at the operating coal mining sites are calculated using the old basic rates and salaries based on the last year’s figure of 744 hryvnas.

And the situation is even worse for the III-d category mines, mine rescue teams, coal-mine builders, and workers at coal processing plants. For workers in the sub-sectors of the coal mining industry, the basic rate of 744 hryvnas is still but a dream.

In this regard, Turmanov pointed out that “our priority task is to ensure that the wages go up for industry workers. This was one of the key issues at the Ministry Board meeting.”

Unfortunately, bringing wages up to the level prescribed by the law is far from being the only problem in the coal mining industry.

In view of the 15 October Ministry Board meeting, leaders of all territorial organizations of the union met on 28 September to prepare a well-defined list of priority issues facing the industry’s sites and workforces to be brought to the attention of the enlarged Ministry Board.

Issues such as the lack of funds for the development of mining facilities or provisions for fuel for homes of coal miners also generated points of discussion. Sharp criticisms were voiced with regard to the Ministry’s efforts reforming the regional (oblast) management structure of coal mining sites and other actions.

Union President Victor Turmanov said that if the Ministry of Coal is unable to reform the industry today, the government – and the President – must be told so in so many words. If reforms contradict the interests of workers and prove harmful to the enterprises, then we should be better off without them, leaving the industry governance system in its present form. The union shall brook no mindless attempts at reorganization, no reforms for reform sake!

View a video report from the 28 September territorial meeting of union leaders here. The union’s web site is here