On 11 December 2015 workers from Kryvyi Rih metallurgical plant ArcelorMittal came out to protest. The reason for their dissatisfaction was planned mass job cuts that had been announced by the owners of the Indian company Mittal Steel. The protesters temporarily blocked a nearby road, demanding that the job cut plans be abandoned. The web news portal Sotsportal was informed of these events by activists from the recently created Social Movement political platform.
‘Starting in 2016 the owners are planning to outsource all non-core jobs. That is jobs that do not entail the direct production of steel. This represents about 15,000 people, almost half of the workforce, including steel smelters and rollers, blast furnace operators, ore processors’, explains the head of the trade union of young workers, Pavlo Bardashov. ‘In practice, this means that the workers who will be involved in what the company identifies as “non-core activities” will perform the same jobs as now, but without the various social benefits they currently receive as part of their existing contracts. Whatever experience they have accumulated; whatever holiday vouchers they were due to receive; whatever healthcare they would have been entitled to—all of that will disappear. According to the new contract arrangements, any work-related health problems they may have will no longer be registered as occupational health problems. The company’s three summer camps, two resorts, the preventative healthcare centre Dzherelo, and other services currently available to the workers of the firm, will just be sold off.’
The trade union leader said that outsourcing will lead to a significant deterioration of the workers’ welfare and standard of living, since the new subcontracting firms will sign agreements with ArcelorMittal through tenders, at the core of which lies the reduction of labour costs. ‘All heads of departments, according to Resolution №1296 on the transfer of non-core business units to other private firms, have already submitted lists of jobs and the number of people that will be withdrawn from ArcelorMittal. Specific figures are being hushed up to avoid an explosion of anger. The only way to prevent the owners’ plans is for everyone in the workplace to unite and go out to protest’, said Paul Bardashov.
According to the protesters, the local authorities refuse to take part in the conflict on the grounds that ‘ArcelorMittal’ is a private (rather than a public utility) company and that, therefore, the is no way to influence its policies. However, the workers believe that job and wage cuts will affect the incomes of the entire population of Kryvyi Rih, not just the families of the company employees. ‘Traders in the markets say: “When workers receive their ‘13th moth’ salary, that’s when trade really picks up.” They would always raise prices when that salary was forthcoming, knowing that the workers have more money to spend. Kryvorizhstal’ is a large company and if incomes of its employees are going to be bad, it will affect the whole city negatively. That’s why this is not only our problem’, says Yevhen Fedun, a worker from Arcelor.
Trade union activists state that a coordinating committee, uniting all independent trade unions is being set up at Kryvorizhstal to bolster the protests.
Translated by Hryćko Čonryj
Originally published on