Chris Ford

TUC in Congress September 2014

The British Trade Union Congress which has just met held a brief discussion on the Ukraine crisis and passed an emergency motion moved by the RMT.  The motion states:

Congress 2014 – Emergency motion​  E1   Situation in Ukraine:

Congress notes the comments of the NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the day of the NATO summit on 4th September 2014, that the summit was taking place in a “dramatically changed security environment”.

Congress further notes that these comments follow the announcement on 3rd September 2014 from the Pentagon that the US was sending 200 US soldiers to Ukraine for “training exercises”, the first time that U.S. ground troops have been in the region since hostilities began.

Congress also notes the UN Refugee Agency warning on 2nd September that the fighting to date has displaced more than a million people and that

“…If the crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences, but it also has the potential to destabilize the whole region…after the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold in the European continent.”

Congress is concerned that the crisis has also witnessed attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascists groups, including the Odessa Massacre which saw that City’s trade union centre burned to the ground.

In light of the dangerous and urgent situation in Ukraine, Congress calls for:

  • the General Council to hold an urgent meeting to consider how best to support those fighting for trade union rights and against fascism in the Ukraine
  • an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Ukraine and a peaceful, negotiated settlement
  • opposition to the use of British forces in the Ukrainian conflict

Mover: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

It is unfortunate no Ukrainian trade unionists were invited to speak at the TUC this year.  It is very important that the TUC consults with the actual trade unions in Ukraine in considering how best to support them in their struggle to defend trade union rights, such as the laws still in place despite the removal of the Yanukovych regime.  The trade unions in Ukraine know fully the problems of fascism and have already produced extensive information on their horrific experiences of kidnapping, violence and intimidation mostly in East Ukraine and occupied Crimea.   They deserve our full solidarity in their struggle.

The International Trade Union Congress also adopted a statement on Ukraine at its Congress In Berlin which went further than the British TUC who also voted for it – the ITUC statement at least recognises that more than one trade union biulding has been attacked in Ukraine – the first in Kyiv where many were nearly 50 people were murdered by Yanukovych’s security forces.  The ITUC also recognise the negative role of Russia  in the conflict and calls for the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine:

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow

3rd ITUC World Congress, Berlin, May 2014
ITUC General Secretary’s Congress Plenary Statement on Ukraine (23 May 2014)
“Trade unions around the world are monitoring with the highest concern the mounting conflict in Ukraine and the dangerous spillover effects in the region and beyond. The main repercussions, however, are primarily and directly affecting the ordinary people – the continuing disruption of their lives on a daily basis; dysfunctional communities and civil structures; and the mounting uncertainty for their future in the years to come.
Congress mourns the tragic deaths taking place in Ukraine, expresses its deepest condolences to the families and the people of Ukraine, condemns the violence and the burning of trade union buildings in Kiev and Odessa, joins the demand to make an independent investigation and to punish those guilty in the arson actions that have led to casualties.
Congress urges the relevant policy makers from Ukraine, within Ukraine as well as the key international actors involved – the Russian Federation, the USA, the EU – to use all their authority, to spare no effort, to implement the Geneva agreement and to prevent armed extremist actions spiralling out of control. It is of utmost urgency to redirect the process towards one of dialog and political solutions and to open space for the voices of normal people, trade unions, civil society to be part of the process and contribute to the final outcome.
Congress calls for the de-escalation of tension, respect for the Constitution of Ukraine for territorial integrity, allotment of Russian troops away from the border with Ukraine, the disarmament of illegal groups and military forces and the withdrawal of armed forces from the southeast of Ukraine as the situation stabilises. It also calls for the strengthening of commitments in the field of human rights, instruments of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which is the main competent security institution in the region.
We recognise with regret that since then the economic and social situation has deteriorated significantly with increasing risks of current tensions, and violence persists. The value of the national currency has already dropped 28% in just the five months in 2014, significantly undermining working peoples’ incomes and living standards on the eve of a forthcoming major economic adjustment process. The grim macroeconomic picture has been confirmed in the latest outlook in EBRD with 7% decline of GDP in 2014 and stagnation in 2015 provided the adjustment starts reducing imbalances, and no further escalation of tensions.
Disruptions in the economic and social system are on the rise, particularly in the eastern part of the country.
Companies are facing difficulties in maintaining normal operations, in keeping jobs, while people face
problems about getting to work, about maintaining their incomes and their way of life. We further recognise
the magnitude of the challenge Ukraine is confronting with the need to maintain a critical mass of consensus, to open space for the reforms to work while securing an effective level of social justice and social protection to keep people motivated in the process. The costs of the adjustment process, they need to be shouldered fairly by all and not fall solely on the working people and socially vulnerable groups.
Congress reaffirms that social dialog is an indispensable tool for designing and implementing the forthcoming reform policies. It points out that the trade unions have already demonstrated their readiness to contribute to this process. This demand from the representatives of working people and the most representative civil society organisations remains the only satisfactory solution to ending the crisis, saving lives and charting a course for the future based on peace and social and economic justice, and peaceful coexistence.
We express solidarity with the trade unions of Ukraine and support restoration of peace and tranquillity as desired by the majority of the population of Ukraine, who have become hostage to geopolitical games.”