The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign presents the following statement by the All-Ukraine Independent Trade Union Defence of Labour – [ Zakhist Pratsi ]. We appeal to the labour movement to show solidarity with the trade unionists and community in Odessa whose efforts to challenge price increases have been met with repression. We have also seen the harassment of Andriy Ischenko by the notorious security police the SBU. Andriy the local union organiser of Zakhyist Pratsi, recently addressed a meeting of trade unionists in London on the current situation. This use of a private militia against the community is ominous and demands global solidarity in response.
by the Central Committee of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” regarding events in Odessa, March 17th, 2015
On March 17, 2015 the All-Ukrainian Independent Trade Union “Zakhyst Pratsi” in cooperation with the civic movement “Autonomous Resistance” organised a protest rally on the main street of Odessa to protect the interests of ordinary citizens of Odessa who use public transport daily. The public in Odessa is well acquainted with the fact that 2 years ago, under the former mayor of Odessa Kostusev, we together with residents of Odessa, following a series of street protests, were able to defend the common right of territorial communities and forced the former corrupt city government to abandon plans to increase fares in the city “marshrutka” minibuses from 2.50 to 4 UAH.
And now, the “new” city authorities, without any consultation with the Odessa community, without giving absolutely no calculations and contradicting the legislation of Ukraine, without open public hearings decided to raise fares almost double – that is, from 3 to 5 UAH for marshrutka minibuses in Odessa. In addition, our wages, pensions and scholarships remain “frozen” by the Government of Ukraine, which faithfully protects the interests not of ordinary Ukrainian citizens but those of business and the major oligarchic clans.
Our peaceful rally was organised for the benefit of workers and self-employed residents of Odessa – ordinary passengers of public transport. These are people of different political views and preferences. We are different and that’s our strength, this is why the agenda of the 17th March protest included purely economic demands on issues of non-transparent price formation in Odessa communal public transport. We aimed to unite different people in defending their civil and social rights, and not in the interests of all the politicians or obsessive abstractions we are all tired of.
The demands of our protests were clear and understandable. We demanded from Odessa city administration:
- To provide Odessa citizens with a written justification for increasing fares in marshrutka minibuses up to 5 UAH per trip;
- To hold public hearings regarding the justified fares for public minibuses;
- Introduce transparent and open accounting in all public transport companies and inform the public of the city of Odessa online on all the costs and profits of such enterprises;
- Put under financial control the advertising in every city bus and ensure the revenues from it are included in calculations of profit of the enterprises;
- Begin immediate negotiations with a network of gas stations located on the territory of Odessa, in order to provide assistance for their work in exchange for providing public transport companies with fuel at discounted wholesale prices.
On March 17th, 2015, according to official notice was submitted in advance by us to the city administration according to the legal requirements of Ukrainian legislation, we have also planned a peaceful democratic protest rally along Deribasovskaya street to Odessa City Hall in order to deliver the demands outlined above to municipal authorities. However, our peaceful movement which was entirely legitimate was blocked by armed paramilitary groups which were previously seen actively serving the “new” Odessa authorities. In particular, young people in black and camouflage uniforms in flak jackets with batons have blocked the peaceful protesters’ way to the mayor’s office, and then completely surrounded the protestors, trying to prevent the residents of Odessa who came to join the protest to unite.The police, according to a predetermined scenario decided “not to interfere” and took the position of a mere side observer.
We also inform the public that the peaceful protest organiser, coordinator of Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” Andriy Ishchenko underwent unprecedented pressure from the “law enforcement” agencies. Just 40 minutes before the start of the action Odessa SBU officers tried to hand him a summons paper for interrogation as a witness in an unknown case and tried to bring him to the SBU building by force just before the protest. However, the summons order was already overdue, and the actions of the SBU were therefore illegal.
Thus, by the joint efforts of “law enforcement” agencies and paramilitary illegal armed formations an entirely peaceful, democratic and legitimate protest rally to Odessa City Hall with purely economic demands was illegally disrupted. Provocateurs from the authorities apparently expected a possible conflict during our attempt to break the encirclement, but we did not intend to yield to provocations of oligarchic mercenaries and puppets. The organising committee of the action in these circumstances took the only right decision – to abandon the march down the Deribasovskaya street and hold a protest the on-site where participants gathered initially.
We sincerely and loudly declare that March 17th, 2015 Odessa authorities brutally violated the fundamental right of Ukrainian citizens to peaceful assembly. We informed in advance the executive bodies of Odessa about this event, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine. Restrictions on the exercise of this right may be established only by the court according to law. This decision was not and could not be done.
I must admit that at this tragic time for Ukrainian history we see blatant and brazen undermining the democratic gains of Maidan – those gains which were faithfully fought for in Kyiv and Odessa. Those gains for which heroically died on February 20th , 2014, our brother, a soldier of the “Heavenly Hundred” Serhey Kemskyy.
Dear friends! Our right to peaceful assembly and to protest to protect our interests are legitimate rights of all citizens of Ukraine and it is guaranteed by all international conventions and treaties signed by the Ukrainian state. Today, we see how the authorities in close cooperation with “law enforcement” and “paramilitary” oligarchic mercenaries trying to brutally crush this fundamental constitutional right.
We express our democratic protest against this blatant lawlessness. We call for the democratic resistance to tyranny of “new” powers that greedily strive for power on the shoulders of resistance of hundreds of thousands and millions of workers, Ukrainian citizens who overthrew the criminal regime of Yanukovych and his camarilla.
We encourage Odessa, despite brutal pressure to continue the fight for transparency of government in any increase in urban rates. The independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” will continue at the forefront of this struggle with ordinary residents of Odessa in defending their legitimate interests. We will not stop the struggle!
During this dangerous time, we call for all Ukrainians regardless of their ethnic background or political preferences, go stand up and fight for social justice and democratic values which are under threat of destruction and final installation of the outright dictatorship of oligarchs which have plundered for the last 23 years and continue to plunder our suffering people. They brought us to misery and poverty, and now they try to limit us even in our right to protest outright lawlessness.
We urge our colleagues around the world, international and domestic human rights movement, international and national trade unions, to show solidarity with the struggle of Ukrainian trade unionists in defence of social justice and democracy in Ukraine. We urge you to undertake appropriate actions of solidarity and address governments of the democratic countries to influence the leadership of Ukraine and at regional levels to ensure that all elements of power comply with basic democratic norms and stop immediately the suspension and obstruction of the Ukrainian independent trade union movement.
The Central Committee of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi”, Odessa, Ukraine
March 19, 2015
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