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Ukrainian miners continue to protest, demanding better pay

17 May, 2017The miners of the Ukranian enterprises Kryvyi Rih Iron-Ore Combine (KZRK) and Evraz Sukha Balka and workers of the ArcelorMittal-Kryvyi Rih steel plant have been protesting for more than a week, demanding significant wage increases. They have created a joint strike committee to coordinate their actions under the leadership of IndustriALL affiliate Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU).

On 16 May, a group representing workers of Evraz Sukha Balka launched negotiations with management. Miners insist that their wages increase by at least 20 per cent from 1 May, with a further a gradual increase of 30 per cent by the end of August. Management proposes to raise wages by 12 per cent from 1 May. Neither side wants to make concessions at the moment.

More than a thousand workers of the steel plant ArcelorMittal-Kryvyi Rih held a peaceful rally on 11 May, in solidarity with the miners of KZRK and Evraz. In addition to the wage increase demands, they also want to stop the ongoing outsourcing of employees and operating units, to renew the employees' housing programmes, to provide annual financial assistance for leave and recuperation, among others. The column of protesters marched to the administration building of the enterprise, where 12 representatives were elected for negotiations. They were unable to find either the general director or his deputies, so the protesters went inside and occupied four floors. They are seeking a meeting with the management to hand over their demands. Some workers are ready to start a hunger strike.

Previously, on 10 May, miners from the Juvileyna and Frunze mines of enterprise Evraz Sukha Balka, owned by Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich among others, started an underground protest following the example of miners from KZRK. Management forbade the provision of food and water to the protesters and only went down to the pit a day and a half later to begin the conversation.

The families and workers of the mine building unit of Evraz Sukha Balka showed their solidarity with the miners protesting underground and blocked access roads to the enterprise as well as stopping all shipments.

The workers of Kryvyi Rih enterprises decided to create a joint strike committee to coordinate their actions. Yuri Samoilov, chair of the Kryvyi Rih branch of the NPGU became a chair of this committee.

Mychailo Volynets, president of the NPGU says:

“There is information that the employers of various companies have also joined together to delay the process of negotiations with the miners. This can destroy the faith of workers and trade union activists in achieving justice by peaceful protest. Unfortunately, social dialogue exists in Ukraine only formally, and this significantly complicates the fight of the miners for their rights”.

According to Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, the demands of the miners to raise wages can be fulfilled, so the struggle continues.