Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 16:29 GMT

The Global State of Workers' Rights - Ukraine

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 31 August 2010
Cite as Freedom House, The Global State of Workers' Rights - Ukraine, 31 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d4fc7f028.html [accessed 24 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Mostly Free

The right to join and form trade unions is guaranteed by the constitution and the 1999 Act on Trade Unions. Despite Ukraine's progress on some aspects of democratization, unions still face limits on the freedom of assembly, the right to organize, and access to fair hearings in the courts. Unions must register with the state, a requirement that violates international norms, and they complain that the registration process is excessively complex. Employers frequently violate unions' right to organize, and government officials, who often have opaque ties to private-sector businesses, typically turn a blind eye to these practices.

The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) dominates the organized labor scene, making it difficult for independent unions to operate. Drawing on its Soviet history, the FPU maintains close ties to employers. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU) is the country's largest and fastest-growing independent labor group, representing medical, education, mining, transportation, and other workers, though it is still relatively small. CFTUU president Mikhail Volynets is a member of the Ukrainian parliament affiliated with the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. In 2009, the FPU unsuccessfully sought to pass legislation that would have severely limited the powers of the CFTUU. Employers often act against unions with impunity, leading the unions to file numerous complaints with the International Labour Organization. Factory owners are still able to pressure their workers to vote according to the owners' preferences.

A strike can only be organized if two-thirds of the workers support it, a high threshold by international standards. Nevertheless, small-scale rallies are common in Ukraine's active civic life, and hundreds of professionals and workers have taken to the streets to protest various government actions. In 2009, workers struck the Kyiv public transit system for not providing wage increases after significantly raising fares for passengers. In Kherson, an agricultural machinery plant faced a strike over wage arrears.

Employers' unwillingness to engage in collective bargaining sometimes leads to worker discontent. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, some employers refuse to bargain collectively even after being served with a court order.

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