Miners protest at the Lviv state administration building
There has been growing strike action and militant protests by Ukrainian Miners in Chervonograd, and other parts of Lviv Oblast in West Ukraine. At the root of the protests is massive arrears of unpaid wages.
Chairman of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NGPU) Mikhail Volynets, slammed the Ukrainian government for breaking its promise to pay the arrears, instead of the 150 million hryvnia promised it has allocated only 38 million hryvnia. The state employer has failed to fully pay miners wages for November and December, leaving miners with unpaid wages of an estimated 85 million hryvnia. Whilst Miners had made some gains the wages that were repaid were done so in small instalments. Wages owed have continued to mount since last year. This impacted particularly hard on miner’s families over Christmas and New Year.
This conduct by the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry has provoked anger amongst the miners – at the state owned mine “Lvovugol” they blocked the road on 12th January which leads to the border with Poland. Earlier Lviv miners have blocked the road to enter Chervonograd, whilst miners at the mine “Steppe” were joined by six other mines in strike action.
Meetings have been held on shifts on 15th -16th January to take direct action – with a series of wildcat strikes in Chervonohrad – where workers rallied in protest in the Town Square. Miners have also held mass pickets of the Lviv regional state administration on 21 January. The protest was also been joined by members of the old ‘official unions’ from the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, demonstrating in solidarity with the miners. Meanwhile, members of the Trade Union of Coal Industry (old union) voted no confidence in the head of their trade union. Some workers have joined the branches of NGPU.
Chairman of the NGPU at the mine “Mezhyrichanska”, Vasily Lesnjak, said“people do not want to strike and freeze blocking the road. They want to work, but not for free, but for a decent wage”.
Meanwhile the problems for Ukraine’s miners have increased since 1st January 2016 Volodymyr Demchyshyn Minister for Energy and Coal Industry, a former banker, has announced no investment for maintenance and development of the coal industry but instead money for restructuring – that is a mine closures programme with twenty mines listed for closure. No money however has been provided for miners who will lose their jobs, for retraining or to develop new industries for the towns and villages who livelihoods depends entirely on coal. Increase action by the miners trade unions is inevitable and has been discussed at the latest Praesidium of the NGPU on 27th January in Kyiv.