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Ukrainian miners stage protest over unpaid wages

21.06.2018 Coalminers organized a mass protest on 19 and 20 June in front of Verhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) in the hope of attracting attention of the parliamentarians to the dreadful situation in the coal mining sector and its effects on conditions for coalminers. Hundreds of miners came to Kiev and participated in the protest action. In the state-owned coalmining sector of Ukraine, workers are compelled to go on wildcat strikes to get paid. Some of the protesting miners from Selidivvugillya have not been paid wages since 2015.

According to the joint declaration of IndustriALL affiliates Coal Mining Workers’ Union of Ukraine and Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, by 14 June the arrears in wages reached up to 761 million UAH (US$30 million). Half of this amount is due to miners of Donbass and Selidivvugillya. In the state budget for 2018, 2.5 billion UAH (US$95 million) is allocated to support coal and peat extracting enterprises and their technical modernization. According to calculations by the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy, the coal sector alone needs at least three times that amount. Due to lack of financing, the sector is no longer self-sufficient and as a result, coal production in Ukraine is rapidly declining – from by 8.3 million tons in 2013 to 34.9 million tons in 2017. In the first half of this year coal-mining further declined in Ukraine by an additional 14 per cent. At the same time, according to the unions’ declaration, the Ukrainian government is increasingly importing coal from abroad. From January to May this year the import of hard coal and anthracite increased by 42.9 per cent at a cost of US$1.25 billion. The unions raised their voice and demanded that parliamentarians support a bill foreseeing allocation of 2.8 billion UAH (US$105 million) for the coal mining sector in order to maintain and reform national coal mining. The unions believe the adoption of the bill would save state-owned mines and safeguard social stability of Ukrainian cities and families. Thanks to the protest action the bill was put on the agenda, but its vote will take place most likely later in the year. Following the protests, the Minister of Energy met the miners and promised to provide money needed to cover the arrears, so far only 10 million UAH (US$380,000) was promised to be allocated to the miners of Selidivvugillya as the first payment of arrears. Miners and their unions decided to suspend the protest action, but declared they will start again if wage arrears are not paid within 10 days. Lack of financing of the sector and particularly lack of safety inspection, have resulted in an increasing number of accidents in the industry, making mining the most dangerous sector in the Ukraine. At the recent International Labour Conference held in Geneva (Link to the video) IndustriALL raised the issue and demanded that the Ukrainian Government urgently addressed the situation of safety at work, as well as arrears in wages and low wages.