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Notorious labour law adopted in Ukraine

20 July, 2022Despite numerous public appeals from the international community and trade unions in the country, Ukraine’s parliament has adopted a modification of the labour legislation which means that companies with fewer than 250 employees will be able to directly negotiate pay structure, working hours and the conditions or terms of contract termination.

Martial law in Ukraine already greatly restricts workers’ rights, although these restrictions are clearly time limited. Workers are among the hardest hit by the Russian aggression and the ILO estimates that 4.8 million jobs have already been lost.

The adoption of law no 5371 will exclude workers of small and medium-sized companies from legal protection by setting a new "contractual regime for regulating labour relations", where all working conditions are determined by an employment contract instead of by labour law.

Dismissals will be at the employer’s discretion, as the employment contract would determine the grounds for dismissal instead of the current strict list of grounds provided by the labour code.

Trade unions have been excluded from the development of the law. According to the Confederation of Free Trade Unions in Ukraine, the law eliminates the role of unions in representing and protecting workers and labour rights, in direct violation of Ukraine’s constitution and ILO Conventions 87 and 158.

Valeriy Matov, chairman of Atomprofspilka and member of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee says:

“The law makers use insidious tactics not taking into account the proposals and developments prepared by unions, which are the main social partners, and the main experts in the field of practical labour law.

“The law makers have included changes that they failed to adopt earlier and thus distort the law itself, the integrity of labour code, violate international norms, resulting in a deterioration of labour rights for millions of Ukrainian workers."

Mykhailo Volynets, chairperson of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, says:

"We won’t tolerate disrespect to workers’ rights, international labour standards, and European values.  We insist that the effectiveness of rebuilding Ukraine and its success in the future depends on the level of protection of workforce rights.

We're grateful IndustriALL for solidarity and appeals to Ukrainian authorities on the concerns regarding the promotion of the law N5371.  It helps us to defend workers' rights."

The change to the labour legislation received negative expert opinions long before the war started, including from the ILO. In 2021, the ILO said that the contractual free will is very likely to translate ‘at the employer’s discretion’ in practice.

“This is an appalling development. We find it unacceptable that at a time when the country needs unity and solidarity, the Ukrainian Parliament considers modification of labour legislation as a priority,”

says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie.

In a recent letter to the European Union, IndustriALL and IndustriAll Europe expressed concern about the recent developments of the labour legislation and stressed that labour and trade union rights are properly respected and implemented in line with the EU standards.