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Ukrainian miners protest underground against non-payment of wages

21 February, 2019150 mineworkers at the Kurakhivska mine in the Donetsk region have started an underground protest, joining 40 colleagues who have been protesting in the 1\3 Novogrodivska mine since 18 February 2019.

The mineworkers are demanding payment of three months of wage arrears from the state-owned coal mining company Selydivvugillia. IndustriALL Global Union affiliates the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers of Ukraine and Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) support the protesters.

On 18 February, 50 workers of the 1\3 Novogrodivska mine went underground, but refused to start working. Seven of them did not return to the surface after the end of the shift. The next day, another 37 miners joined the underground protest. Trade unions provide them with water and food.

Miners demand the payment of wages for November and December 2018, and for January 2019. The outstanding wage bill is UAH 250 million (US$ 9,2 million).

The coal reserves in the 1\3 Novogrodivska mine were partially misappropriated by Oleksandr Yanukovych, the son of former a Ukrainian President, and are not currently being exploited. Mineworkers have repeatedly called on the Ukrainian parliament to bring them back into public ownership, but have failed so far.

Viktor Turmanov, president of the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers of Ukraine, stated:

“It is difficult to say how long the action will last. The situation is very tense. Miners presented an ultimatum that they would not start working until the debt is fully repaid.”

The total amount of wage arrears at the state coal mining enterprises of Ukraine is more than UAH 814 million (US $ 29,9 million).

Mychailo Volynets, president of NPGU, said:

“Unfortunately, the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine and the Government do not take effective measures to address this situation, neither to solve the problems of state mines in general”.

Earlier, on 6 February, 350 miners of the state-owned enterprise Lvivugillia held a demonstration against the non-payment of wages in front of the building of the Lviv regional administration. Among other demands, miners insist on payment of their UAH 210 million (US$ 7.7 million) in outstanding wages, and resolving the problem of coal sales.

The protest resulted in a meeting of representatives of trade unions with the mine management and representatives of the regional administration on problematic issues of the coal industry. Subsequently wage arrears were repaid at 67 per cent for December 2018 and at 68 per cent for January 2019.

Vadim Borisov, regional secretary of IndustriALL, comments:

“We call on the government of Ukraine to move to social dialogue and carefully consider the proposals of our affiliates for the development of the coal industry”.