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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ukraine

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Ukraine, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
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: 45,900,000
Capital: Kiev
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade unionists suffered pressure and intimidation. Employers' failure to transfer membership fees remains a common practice. Legislation incompatible with international standards remains in place.

Trade union rights in law

Compulsory registration: The right to join and form trade unions is guaranteed by the Constitution and the 1999 Act on Trade Unions.

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. Some legislative amendments were enacted in 2006 and instructions were given to ensure that the registration rules applied were in line with ILO standards. However, trade unions report that registration is still very complicated. In 2007, the Labour and Social Policy Committee of the Ukrainian parliament organised a special sitting on ILO Convention 87 and the rights of trade unions and employers' organisations. However, the Committee's recommendations have so far not been implemented.

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 the Stock Market in April 2004, it is works' councils and not trade unions that have a mandate for collective bargaining. However, Ukrainian legislation does not provide for the establishment of works' councils in workplaces. Trade unions have asked the Committee to withdraw this provision, but the Committee had still not done so by the end of the year.

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.

Right to strike limited: The right to strike is recognised in the constitution, provided it is used 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, in which 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 using a simplified procedure. The government does not agree with proposals to allow the unions to organise solidarity strikes.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Ukraine was severely affected by the global recession, particularly due to the falling demand for steel, the country's main export. Early parliamentary elections were expected after the President dissolved the Parliament in October. They were then cancelled due to the increasing economic crisis. In December, several thousand trade unionists marched in the centre of Kiev, protesting against the government's anti-crisis plans, which were developed so as to meet the stringent conditions attached to the IMF relief loan.

Pressure and discrimination: Union members are often subject to pressure and discrimination. This includes dismissals, transfers, demotions and deteriorating working conditions for trade unionists. As reported by the ITUC-affiliated Federation of Ukrainian trade unions (FPU), two women shop stewards were dismissed during the year in the town of Vinnytsia. They were employed, respectively, by the Gorkiy Central Amusement park and the town newspaper. Discrimination was reported in the Zakarpattia regional department attached to the Ministry of Emergencies and in several other workplaces.

Another ITUC affiliate, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KVPU), reported pressure at the Dimitrova coal mine (Krasnoarmeyskugol company), where one of the floor managers destroyed workers' application forms for the KVPU-affiliated trade union.

In March, the members of a KVPU-affiliated trade union at Lviv airlines were specifically selected for collective redundancies. KVPU reported four more anti-union dismissals: two at the Northern-Donetsk consortium Azot and one each at the Mariupol metalworking plant and a hospital.

Bullying: Trade union members, including a deputy chairman of the KVPU-affiliated Defence of Justice trade union at Chervonograd housing and communal services and the members of the KVPU-affiliated Free Trade Union of healthcare workers of the Kiev city dental surgery clinics, were put under pressure and threatened with dismissal. A trade union leader was subjected to a fabricated disciplinary measure and threatened with reprisals.

Collective bargaining: The general lack of good faith bargaining has created industrial strife. Despite having signed the National General Agreement, some employers' organisations avoid sectoral collective bargaining. Employers refused to enter into collective bargaining with trade unions, for example in CJSC Energovugillia (coal industry) and in ProstoFinance Ltd. According to the KVPU, even a court order is not sufficient to convince the employer to enter into negotiations with a trade union.

Employers, employers' organisations as well as central and municipal authorities often refuse to give trade unions information on issues concerning their members' interests, including the company's economic performance, regardless of trade unions' legal right to access such information.

Denial of access to workplaces and facilities: Trade unionists are often denied access to workplaces. FPU affiliates' officers could not enter a number of companies where their members are employed, including the Kharkiv oxygen plant, JSC Refma, and the Kamianets-Podilsky instrument-making plant. KVPU affiliates were denied access to the Kiev city dental surgery clinic.

Failure to provide facilities for trade union work, including the use of check-off facilities, remained widespread throughout the year. At least 13 employers (most of them in production plants) failed to transfer trade union fees, sometimes using the funds for the company's own needs. Fees arrears at the Lionoteks factory in Zhitomir reached UAH 69,734 (over 7,000 euros), whilst the Lviv Oil Refinery Research Plant owes trade unions UAH 20,000. Some employers, such as the Baranovski porcelain plant, completely withdrew check-off facilities. Several production plants, such as Zavod Leninskaya Kuznia, Dnipropres, Presmash, Iskra, Galenergobudprom and LvivTep, do not allocate the special trade union funds provided by law.

Trade union offices raided: On 16 November, a group of individuals ransacked several regional offices of the FPU. Under the pretext of renting rooms for seminars or meetings, the intruders penetrated trade union buildings, used force to break door locks or windows, entered union offices and refused to leave. In Lviv and Rivne, furniture and equipment at the head office of the Lviv Oblast trade union association were damaged. In Lutsk, the chairman of Volyn Oblast Federation was threatened and asked to hand over the trade union seal and documents. In Kiev, participants at a conference held in the FPU headquarters refused to leave the building. Similar events took place in many other regions. The FPU made an official complaint to the authorities and, so far, criminal investigations have been opened in five regions (Odessa, Chernigiv, Lutsk, Lviv and Rivne).

Anti-union harassment at ProstoFinance Ltd: ProstoFinance, the Ukrainian subsidiary of the French Société Générale banking group, pressured workers into leaving the FPU-affiliated State Employees Union. The company has avoided collective bargaining and refused to give the trade union any information about its members' working conditions or the company's economic situation, or to introduce a check-off facility.

Kuibyshev granite quarry: In May, the Kuibyshev granite quarry withdrew the check-off facility that had been formerly agreed with the FPU-affiliated trade union. On 3 July, the local trade union leader, O.I. Kazachikov, was dismissed in violation of national law. The employer did not allow the external trade union representatives onto the company premises and refused to meet them. The trade union turned to the court and the prosecutor's office at the end of July, but no progress had been achieved by the end of the year.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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