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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Ukraine

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Ukraine, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8891c37.html [accessed 21 August 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: 45,400,000
Capital: Kiev

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Injuries: 1
Dismissals: 1

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Tension between the government and the trade unions has increased. Trade unions face numerous violations, while a number of new neoliberal economic and social reforms are under discussion.

Background

The Ukrainian economy is still feeling the effects of the world economic crisis. Economic recovery continued in 2011, but the consequences of the crisis are still felt by the majority of workers. There were difficult negotiations during the year between the IMF and Ukraine, following the new loan programme agreed with the IMF in 2010. The new structural reforms demanded by the IMF included an increase in the pension age, and the elimination of state subsidies to the gas sector, which would cause a sharp rise in prices. The negotiations reached stalemate, but were expected to resume.

Trade union rights in law

Basic trade union rights are recognised. The right to join and form trade unions is guaranteed by the Constitution and the 1999 Act on Trade Unions, and the law provides for extensive penalties for violations of trade union rights. However, judges have not the right to from or join trade unions.

The right to strike is recognised in the Constitution, but strike action is limited. A strike can only be organised if two-thirds of the workers in the enterprise vote for it. Organized group actions that seriously disturb public order, or significantly disrupt operations of public transport or an enterprise, are punishable by a fine of up to 50 minimum wages or imprisonment for a term of up to six months. The list of essential services where strikes are prohibited exceeds the ILO definition.

The law "On Social Dialogue" of December 2010 stipulates representativity requirements at national, sectoral and territorial levels that may be considered excessive. A draft Labour Code was scheduled for a vote in Parliament in 2010 but its approval was delayed.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Labour laws disregarded:

The Ukrainian trade union movement had to fight in 2011 against proposed reforms promoted by the IMF, and against a new draft Labour Code, which would reduce the right of trade unions to protect their members from unfair dismissal. Despite the protests, the new Code looked set to become law in 2012. The minority trade union centres were highly critical of the new law on social dialogue (which came into force at the beginning of 2011), which in practice excludes minority trade union centres from tripartite social dialogue at the national level, while the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) found itself the target of an anti-union campaign. The Chair of the FPU, Vasil Hara, was summoned to the prosecutor's office in June; the FPU leadership was accused of the illegal privatisation of trade union assets, and the House of Unions in Kiev was searched by the tax police in August. Vasil Hara resigned on 7 November, and was succeeded by Yuri Kulik.

The FPU and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) noted that trade union rights were repeatedly violated.

The KVPU reports numerous cases of pressure against trade union members, union busting, the inefficiency of the courts and law enforcement bodies when the unions turn to them for protection, and the poor enforcement of court decisions. They additionally note that employers resist the establishment of new trade unions, ignore local trade unions and refuse to collect membership dues (using the check-off system).

Both the FPU and KVPU suffer from anti-union discrimination and interference by the public authorities in their trade union activities, and from employers' failure to respect the right to organise and to bargain collectively.

Collective bargaining losing its effectiveness: Collective bargaining is getting increasingly complicated and less effective, one of the reasons being the deregulation of the process. Employers have also refused outright to bargain with trade unions.

Poor protection against anti-union discrimination: Although anti-union discrimination is prohibited in law, the legislation does not contain appropriate mechanisms to ensure protection. Employers use this to their advantage to harass and discriminate against trade union activists.

Violations

The chair of the branch union fired:

Iryna Chyzhova, the chair of the KVPU branch union at the OJSC Zaporizhya Cable Plant, was illegally fired in February. The KVPU complained to the General Prosecutor's Office, and filed a lawsuit against the employer.

Tetyana Burmakova, the chair of NPGU local trade union organisation at the Vatrusheva mine was fired the day after the management of the mine was informed of the establishment of the local trade union organisation, in May. Her dismissal was a blatant violation of the labour legislation. After the NPGU Chairman appealed to the mine management and negotiated with them, Mrs Burmakova was reinstated in her job.

Discrimination against trade union members and activists:

V. Sushytskyi, Chairman of the local branch of the Independent Trade Union of Miners (NPGU) at the "Dobropilska", mine was illegally demoted to a lower paid job in January 2011. Other trade union members faced pressure from managers, urging them to leave the union. Despite appeals by the union to the local prosecutor's office and even to the President of Ukraine, no adequate reaction followed except some standard notification letters saying that no law had been violated.

The members of the local branch of the NPGU at OJSC Marganets Ore Processing Plant encountered additional administrative obstacles to being paid while on sick leave in February. The NPGU complained to the director of the executive directorate of the Social Insurance Fund for Temporary Disability as well as to the General Prosecutor of Ukraine.

T.Taranuschenko, the chair of the newly established branch of the Al-Ukrainian trade union "Defence of Justice" (affiliate of KVPU) at the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine received threats of dismissal from management in March. The KVPU sent a letter to the President of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, as well as to the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine, who replied that no violation of the law had been identified in this case.

Trade union member beaten for not leaving union: On 7 June, A.Mironov, a member of the local branch of the NPGU at the Frunze mine run by the state enterprise "Rovenjkyantratsyt" was beaten in one of the mine's rooms in the presence of Mr I.V.Golovko, the chief of section 2 of the mine and some other witnesses because he refused to leave the trade union. V.Sokolov, the Chair of the mine's branch union, and other union activists, testified at the local police station, but the police tried to delay their investigation and finally it was called off. The guilty persons have not had to answer for their actions.

Employer avoids dialogue with the trade union, discriminates against activists:

Reorganisation and staff lay-offs took place in February at Prydniprovska Railways' Synelnikove locomotive depot in February without the agreement of the trade union committee. The chair of the local trade union (a KVPU affiliate) Tetyana Lymar and her deputies were demoted to lower paid jobs without any agreement with the trade union. Union members faced pressure and were threatened with dismissal. The KVPU complained to the Prosecutor's Office and to the State Labour Inspection of Ukraine. The inspectors found there had been both violations of the Labour Code and of the Branch Agreement. A.M.Sitalo, the Chief of the Prydniprovska Railways' Synelnykove depot, has been called to administrative account.

The Ministry of Education and Science, Youth and Sports of Ukraine excluded the Free Trade Union of Science and Education of Ukraine (VPONU, a minority branch union, affiliated to the KVPU) from the collective bargaining process, and signed a Branch Agreement with only one trade union despite the fact that before the signing of the Agreement a Joint Representative Body of Trade Unions (JRTUB) was created including two trade union organisations. VPONU appealed to the Ministry.

Twenty seven miners died and 14 were injured on 29 July at the "Sukhodilska-Skhidna" mine, including NPGU members. Another accident took place at the "Krasnokutska" mine owned by the State Enterprise "Donbassantratsyt" on 4 August, in which four miners, all NPGU members, were injured. According to Ukrainian legislation, an investigation has to be carried out into these group accidents, and a representative of the trade union must be included in the commission. In both cases the Chair of the NPGU appealed on the day of the incident to the Prime Minister, asking to be included in the commission. In both cases the government ignored his request. The NPGU complained to the ITUC and ICEM Secretaries General as well as to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Associations, and appealed to the Administrative Court of Kiev.

The Free Trade Union of Medical Workers of Ukraine (FTUMWU – an affiliate of the KVPU) was excluded from the collective bargaining process at branch level. The collective agreement was signed in July by the Ministry of Health Care and the Trade Union of Health Care Workers of Ukraine (the FPU's affiliate), without the participation of the FTUMWU in July 2011.

Employers and local authorities try to prevent trade union activity:

The management of the Pavlador section of the Social Insurance Fund has refused to check-off membership fees to the union (a local organisation of the NPGU), and claimed the union is illegal. The chair of the local trade union, M. Zhytnyk, was repeatedly summoned to the police station. The prosecutor's office illegally seized trade union documents and personal statements by union members related to membership fees in May.

The tax authorities of Lysychansk city have breached legislation on trade unions by not granting the KVPU and NPGU trade union organisations the status of non-profitable organisations. According to Mr V.M.Terosypov, the chair of the KVPU local association in Lysychansk, the members of the local trade union at OJSC "Lysychanskvuhillja" in Lysychansk were summoned to the management's offices and threatened in September. The KVPU Chairman appealed to the tax authorities of Ukraine and to the management of the OJSC "Lysychanskvuhillja", insisting that the legislation of Ukraine be respected.

Management at "Coca-Cola Beverages Ukraine Limited" ignores the union's appeals concerning working conditions and pay. According to R.Zavhorodni, the chair of the local trade union (affiliated to the KVPU), the management ignored his request to provide him with a text of the collective agreement at the enterprise.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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