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Ukraine: continued struggle for payment of wages

10 June, 2014Steel, coal and peat mining workers in different regions of Ukraine have been picketing their employers and governmental agencies demanding a wage increase and an elimination of wage arrears.

On 3 June, hundreds of workers at ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih JSC, Ukraine’s largest metallurgical company, launched a protest in front of the main entrance. Protestors demanded increased wages and a stop to the policy of headcount reduction. IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, the Trade Union of Metalworkers and Miners of Ukraine and the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, were among the organisers.

In April, employees of ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih demanded a wage increase of 20 per cent. Management responded by a 6 per cent increase a few weeks later. According to unions this is not enough; a minimum of 20 per cent is needed to compensate for the rise of prices on basic goods and services, as well as for the fall of the Ukrainian hryvnia exchange rate.

An employees' conference is scheduled for 12 June, for management to approve the workers’ demands. Should this fail the trade unions will start the procedure of a collective labour dispute.

“Just give us what we earn”

Around 150 workers of the Lviv Coal Company JSC, picketed outside the Lviv regional administration, demanding the three months pay they are owed and clarity over the future of the company. A decline in sales has led to a critical situation, with all warehouses overloaded with coal. And with contributions to the state budget and state funds, the company has no money to pay its current production costs.

Olga Shkoropad, local chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners, said that the staff stopped working because 90 per cent of the wages for January, February and March had been delayed. People would go back to work if the wage arrears were settled.

Irina Mayik, local vice-chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine said:

"We are not asking for a raise; just give us what we earn. They say the factory makes a loss – then why don't the owners close it or carry out a financial rehabilitation?"

With the issues still unresolved, workers are planning two protest actions in Kiev in front of the buildings of the Cabinet of Ministers and the State Property Fund of Ukraine on 11 June. They will reiterate their demands to eliminate the wage arrears and to ensure the sustainable operation of the enterprise.

The employees of four peat mining state enterprises Cherkassyrtorf, Rozhnitorf, Rovnetorf and Volyntorf, and members of the Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners of Ukraine, put forward similar demands while protesting outside the buildings of the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine and the Ministry of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine on 30 May in Kiev. Among the demands were to ensure sustainable operations, to eliminate wage arrears, and to preserve, develop and modernize the Ukrainian peat industry.

IndustriALL Global Union supports the struggle of its affiliates and the workers of the enterprises for a fair wage and a timely wage payment, and expects the management to accept the justified workers’ demands as soon as possible.