Ukrainian workers face major attack on their freedom

A new labour law is being introduced in Ukraine which represents a major attacks on workers freedom and democracy as a whole. The Ukrainian trade union as whole is engaged in mobilising to oppose this attacks and is calling for solidarity. We publish below a press release issued by the Labor Initiatives centre in Kyiv.

“Proposed laws on work are a threat to Ukrainian freedom, democracy, and the EU Association Agreement”

Background:

On 27th of December the Cabinet of Ministers approved the draft law “On labor” and next day it was submitted to the parliament under No. 2708. On 27th of December there was also registered the draft law № 2681 On amending the law on trade unions which undermines the freedom of association in Ukraine, narrows the right to form labor unions, and also seizes labor union property.

The 98 articles of governmental proposed law “On labor” written by the Ministry of Economy as well as the new trade union law were drafted without consultations with social partners and expert community. The law “On labor” further violates Rada procedures, as the body is already considering another labor law. Both laws, taken together, will ruin the balance of power in employment relationships towards the uncontrolled increasing employer`s powers.  They will benefit monopolies, oligarchs, and corrupt enterprises managers who can take advantage of the new almost unilateral powers. 

“These proposed laws on work are a threat to Ukrainian freedom, democracy, and the EU Association Agreement.  These laws would make Ukraine the lowest country in Europe for worker rights protections.” – George Sandul, labor law expert and Legal Director at NGO Labor Initiatives

Such draft laws that aimed to regulate the most important sphere where earn their livings – the labor one are clearly violate the Constitution of Ukraine which forbids diminishing the content and scope of the existing rights by an adoption of new laws, as well as they violate numerous ILO conventions  ratified by Ukraine.  The law “On labor” would arguably make Ukraine the lowest country in Europe for labor protections, and would make Ukraine the only fully “at will employment” country on the continent, meaning employers can fire workers for no reason “at will.”

The main dangers of the drafts are:

  • Establishing so called “at will employment” – the employer may fire employee without any reason or explanation, which makes other protections, such as gender, or ethnicity, essentially meaningless.
  • The laws will help corruption, as workers will have no protections from dismissal for reporting corruption (undermining the new anti-corruption whistleblower laws that recently passed)
  • Expanding the field of use of fixed-term contracts 
  • Introducing the “zero hour contracts”
  • Introducing the “flexible working schedule”
  • The possibility to work 6 days a week with only one day-off
  • Cancelation of the special law “On trade unions, their rights and guarantees of activity” with proposing nothing instead – thus unions left without any legal grounds to functioning which may lead to mass public protests
  • Seizing the unions property and transferring it to the state


“These laws are a disaster, they undermine the welfare of average Ukrainians, and are little more than a New Year’s gift to oligarchs and corruption. Honest business and foreign investment won’t benefit, but average people will suffer.” – Inn Kudinska, legal expert with Labor Initiatives

Such changes will undermine the principles of labor relations in Ukraine which will lead to bigger insecurity of employees. Any norms on anti-discrimination or any efforts to forming the corruption whistleblowers culture on the workplace will be nullified by unlimited powers of employers.

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