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Ukrainian miners return above ground after pay promise

26 July, 2017Miners at the Kapustin and Novodruzhska mines in the Lugansk region of Ukraine have come to the surface a week of protesting underground over unpaid salaries. It follows a meeting on 20 July where the Ministry of Energy and Coal approved the payment of outstanding wages, which in some cases stretch back to 2015.

More than 50 miners returned to ground on 21 and 22 July at the two mines owned by state enterprise, Lysychanskvugillya, after enduring seven days of dangerous conditions underground. Four people became ill during the protest and needed to be raised to the surface.

Workers are set to receive their first payment on 2 August, and have been promised that there payment of wage arrears for 2017 by the end of August, and arrears for 2015 and 2016 by 1 April 2018.

On 20 July, IndustriALL affiliates, the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) and the Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers of Ukraine, met with the representatives of the Ministry of Energy and Coal and the administration of Lysychanskvugillya in the capital Kiev, where negotiations led to the approval of the salary payments.

According to the NPGU president, Mykhailo Volynets, workers will continue to protest if the debt isn’t paid:

“The miners are in difficult conditions and under psychological pressure from the administration. In addition, the miners’ town of Lysychansk is located near the area of military conflict, and this also psychologically affects people. We are concerned that in a tense emotional state the miners could take radical or inappropriate action.”

Miners will hold a rally on 28 July in the front of the Lugansk region administration building in the city of Severodonetsk, demanding the fulfillment of obligations made by the minister of Energy and Coal Industry.

In August 2016, Victor Trifonov, the chair on NPGU in the towns of Selidovo and Novogrodovka, set himself alight to force the payment of unpaid wages and attract authorities’ attention to the workers’ and their families’ predicament.

IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, stated in his letter to the President of Ukraine on 25 July:

“This situation is untenable, preventing workers access to healthcare and pension benefits, and driving workers and their families to the brink of extreme poverty. We stand in solidarity with our affiliates in their struggle for decent and better working conditions, and we also support the continuation of the strike if the first payment is not made on 2 August.”