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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ukraine

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ukraine, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca0532.html [accessed 11 July 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.

Population: 47,800,000
Capital: Kiev
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Legislation incompatible with international standards remains in place. Although the government has made an effort to resolve some past violations, further cases of harassment, intimidation and even physical assault of trade union activists were reported.

Trade union rights in law

Compulsory registration: The right to join and form trade unions is guaranteed by the constitution. The principal law governing trade union rights is the 1999 Act on Trade Unions, their Rights and Guarantees of their Activities.

The Civil Code and the law on the state registration of legal entities and natural persons-entrepreneurs, stipulate that trade unions can only acquire legal identity after they have been registered by the State, a restriction unacceptable by international labour standards. The registration procedure is extremely cumbersome and involves paying court fees. An amendment that would remove the requirement for compulsory registration was rejected by Parliament in October 2005.

The government has been taking steps to bring its legislation into line with ILO standards. Although the respective amendment should have come into force in October 2006, trade unions report that in practice trade union registration became even more complicated. The Cabinet also gave instructions to the central executive authorities to issue systematic recommendations to their local offices to ensure that the law was applied in conformity with ILO standards.

Collective bargaining: The Law on Collective Bargaining guarantees this right. Problems concerning wages and working conditions are supposed to be resolved by joint worker-management committees. Registered unions with national status may participate in the national collective bargaining agreement. However, according to the Model Statutes and Internal Rules for public limited companies, issued by the State Committee on Equities and Stock Market in April 2004, it is Works' Councils, not trade unions, that have the mandate for collective bargaining. Yet Ukrainian legislation does not envisage the creation of Works' Councils at the workplace. Trade unions have asked the Committee to withdraw this provision, but the Committee had still not done so by the end of 2006.

Anti-union discrimination: Anti-union discrimination is prohibited under the law. The Criminal Code stipulates penalties for the violation of trade union rights, including fines, the loss of the right to occupy certain positions or engage in certain activities and, in some cases, even imprisonment. However, no employer has been held liable under these provisions, even when courts have recognised cases of discrimination against trade union members.

Disputes: The law on Labour Disputes Resolution establishes an arbitration service and a national mediation and reconciliation service.

Right to strike limited: The right to strike is recognised in the constitution, provided it is to "defend economic and social interests." A strike can only be organised if two thirds of the workers of the enterprise vote for it, which is excessive by international standards. The list of essential services, where strikes are prohibited, exceeds the ILO definition. Public servants may not strike, nor may members of the judiciary, armed forces, security services or law enforcement agencies. Workers who strike in prohibited sectors may receive prison terms of up to three years. Federations and confederations cannot call a strike.

Trade unions want to introduce the notion of a "warning strike" of a limited duration that could be organised according to a simplified procedure. The government does not agree to proposals to allow the unions to organise solidarity strikes.

Trade union rights in practice

Discrimination and interference: Trade union members are often subject to discrimination. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions (KVPU, affiliated to the ITUC) reported that in several schools in the Lviv oblast members of their affiliate were denied bonuses or paid lower salaries, which, in one school, led to a hunger strike and the subsequent hospitalisation of some of the teachers. Their members in the mining sector are also subject to frequent intimidation, and at least three trade unionists were dismissed from the railways.

The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU, affiliated to the ITUC) reported persecution for trade union activities, as a result of which trade union organisations were dissolved (cases include a tractor components plant, a convalescent home, a number of agriculture establishments and a transport service company) or lost a lot of members (for example at a steel plant and a mechanical engineering plant). More than 20 trade union leaders have been dismissed in the course of 2006, almost half of them in healthcare institutions. In a number of cases, trade unions tried to get the state authorities to intervene. Although there were some reinstatements and compensations, in the majority of cases there was no state intervention or it was ineffective. However, both KVPU and FPU reported a few incidents where trade union discrimination has been effectively addressed by the courts. The government has been making efforts to resolve the outstanding complaints reported to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Collective bargaining: The general lack of good faith bargaining has created industrial strife. Quite a few employers' organisations signed the National General Agreement just to be seen to be doing the right thing, but avoid sectoral collective bargaining. Employers often refuse to enter into collective bargaining with trade unions. According to KVPU, even a court order is not sufficient to convince the employer to enter into negotiations with a trade union.

Employer denial of union rights: Denying trade unionists access to their members' workplaces, failure to provide facilities for trade union work, including the check-off facilities, were all widespread throughout the year. Although many cases have not been resolved yet, according to the FPU at least three companies settled outstanding union dues. At the Radio and Television Company in Donetsk management and the trade union adopted a joint plan to eliminate violations of trade union rights. The KVPU reports that in many cases their affiliates in the mining sector, the railway sector and its affiliated union "Defence of Justice" were not recognised by management, their activities were obstructed and they were often denied facilities or access to the enterprise.

Violations in 2006

Background: The political climate grew tense after the March general elections, when Mr. Janukovich, defeated in the race for president during the "Orange Revolution", succeeded in forming a parliamentary majority. Mr. Janukovich was ultimately appointed Prime Minister, but the composition of the new government took more than four months. Although the human rights situation in the country has improved, corruption and the independence of judiciary remains a problem. Numerous strikes took place throughout the year, and wage arrears amount to 1,089 million hrivna (216,5 million USD).

Dismissal at Lviv Railroad: Mr. Smereka was elected chairperson of the Free Trade Union of the Uzhgorod passenger carriage section at Lviv Railroad. He was unlawfully suspended from his duties on 20 March. On 12 April the head of department, Mr. Oletzky, having learned about the election, said that he would now look for any way to get rid of Mr. Smereka. The trade unionist was eventually dismissed on 31 August, for alleged unauthorised absence from work. The management took away the trade union premises, cancelled the check-off facility and threatened the members of the Free Trade Union with dismissal. Mr. Smereka informed company central management, but received no reply.

Assaults: On 29 August Mr. God'ko, the chairman of the primary organisation of the Independent Miners' Trade Union at the joint stock company Krimsky Titan, accused the management of breaching the collective agreement and demanded that its provisions be implemented. The next day he was beaten up by the section manager Mr. Kalinichenko, and taken to a hospital with a craniocerebral injury.

On 30 August Ms. Batog, the leader of the Free Trade Union of Education and Science in the boarding school of Sosnitsa (Chernigiv region) was beaten up by the school principal, Mr. Grishenko, after she asked the principal to explain in writing why she was refused time-off to attend a KVPU-organised roundtable on gender equality. Ms. Batog later received an official reprimand for the same request.

Trade union premises searched: On 28 August the Chervonograd city militia searched the offices of the Independent Trade Union of Miners at three mines (Lesnaya, Zarechnaya, Viseyskaua) in the city. The militia was acting on an order issued by the Public Prosecutor's office, although this order was issued in violation of national law. A number of trade union documents, including the file on membership applications from 2002, were seized.

False accusations: On 26 July Mrs. Prybut, who created a trade union at the joint stock company "Dnepropetrovsk", was dismissed while on sick leave. She was accused of the illegal transfer of company funds to her private account and the unauthorised seizure of employees' credit cards. Some 20 employees wrote to the management to refute the accusations and to defend Mrs. Prybut. Trade unionists believe that she was dismissed because she formed a trade union. The stress of the situation caused Mrs. Prybut to spend more than a month in a hospital.

Anti-union activities in Chernobyl: A new trade union established on 7 July at the Ekocentr scientific-industrial enterprise in the town of Chernobyl later became affiliated to the Independent Miners Trade Union. The management did not recognise the organisation, members were intimidated and the union leader, Ms. Vasilyuk was made redundant on 5 October. Although the Special Office of the Public Prosecutor in the Pripyat district ordered the management to cancel the redundancy, Ms. Vasilyuk was not reinstated and was ultimately banished from the enterprise on 5 December, when the company, with the help of the police, used force to evict the trade unionist from its premises.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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