The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) continues to oppose the legislative attempts to radically narrow the labor and social rights of citizens and undermine the role of trade unions in protection workers’ interests in Ukraine, that will negatively affect the socio-economic and democratic development in Ukraine; lead to social instability and mass migration from the country; undermine citizens’ quality of life. Also, the KVPU is particularly concerned about the total disregard of social dialogue principles in the process of drafting and introducing to the Parliament bills regarding regulating labour relations and social protection systems.

In December 2019, the Government, the Chairman of the Parliament Committee on Social Policy and Protection of Veterans’ Rights, Halyna Tretiakova, and other members of the Parliament  representing the political party Sluga Narodu (Servant of the People) introduced to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine draft laws on changes the labor relations and social guarantees systems in Ukraine.  In particular, draft laws: “On Labour” (No. 2708); “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (Concerning Some Issues of Trade Union Activity)” (No. 2681); “On Mandatory funded pension provision” (No. 2683 of 27.12.2019). 

Trade unions’ demonstration from the Maidan to the Parliament

The KVPU notes that for the first time in the history of Ukraine, the important Draft Law (No. 2708) on labor and social rights of workers, which actually defines powers and responsibilities of trade unions as an employees’ representatives, was drafted without the involvement of the parties to social dialogue. During the possesses of drafting, submitting and approving the Draft Law No. 2708 “On Labour”, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the he Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine have been violating the laws of Ukraine “On the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine” (art. 20), “On Social Dialogue” (art. 8), the Regulation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (para. 33) and the General Agreement on Regulation of the Basic Principles and Norms of Implementation of Socio-Economic Policy and Labour Relations in Ukraine for 2019-2021 (para. 4.2). The Government has failed to respect agreeing procedures with the Joint Representative Body of Trade Unions in case of the Draft Law on Labour. The text of the draft law was sent to trade unions an hour before the Government meeting on 28 December 2019, where it was approved without taking into account the position of trade unions.

The Government drafted the Law “On labour” under the pretext of ensuring the balance of interests of employees and employers, attracting investment and, so-called and adjusting the activities of trade unions. However, Draft Law No. 2708 significantly changes the basic principles of regulation of the relations between the employer and the employee in the direction of an uncontrolled increase in the powers of the employer. Moreover, it also violates the constitutional principle set forth in article 22 of the Constitution of Ukraine: “The content and scope of the existing rights and freedoms shall not be diminished by the adoption of new laws or by introducing amendments to the effective laws”.   

In violation of the norms of the Constitution of Ukraine, as well as fundamental international treaties ratified by Ukraine, Draft Law No. 2708 provides for, inter alia:

– possibility of employees’ dismissal without any grounds at employer’s will and without severance pay (Article 35);

– unlimited rights to the employer to dismiss the employee in connection with the breach of the employment contract (Article 36);

– abolishing the state guarantees that the minimum wage should not be less than the living minimum and that the basic salary should not be less than 50% of the minimum wage (Articles 65, 67);

–   introducing overtime work without limits and reduce overtime pay in 5 times (Articles 48, 71);

– concluding fixed-term employment contracts without any legal restrictions for the employer (Article 18).

– introducing an employment contract with an unfixed work schedule (Article 22).

The Draft Law No 2708 contradicts a number of ILO conventions ratified by Ukraine. Moreover, there is a threat of the repeal of 38 ILO conventions ratified before 1991, in particular – 6 out of 8 fundamental conventions (para 4, Section X, “Final Provisions”).  Being a member state of the ILO since 1954 (as part of the former USSR) Ukraine ratified most of the ILO conventions during the Soviet Union time. In particular: Forced Labor Convention No. 29 (Ratified in 1956); Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention No. 87 (Ratified in 1956); Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention No. 98 (Ratified in 1956); Equal Remuneration Convention No. 100 (Ratified in 1956); Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention No. 111 (Ratified in 1961); Minimum Age Convention  No. 138 (Ratified in 1979) .

The Draft Law “On Labor” consists of only 10 chapters (98 articles), which allows its consideration in a Parliament in the simplified and shorter procedure. Its adoption will undermine the stability of employment in Ukraine, effective protection of labor rights and impedes trade unions in carrying out their statutory activities. Furthermore, the draft law causes threats to the implementation of provisions of international treaties, conventions, and agreements, including, commitments under the EU-UA Association Agreement.

On January 15, the Committee on Social Policy and Protection of Veterans’ Rights decided to establish a working group on discussing the draft No 2708.  The representatives of the trade unions, employers’ organizations participate in it. However, there is no guarantee, that all proposed amendments will be voted in the Parliament.

The Draft Law No. 2681 “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (Concerning Certain Issues of Trade Union Activities)” introduces amendments to the Labor Laws of Ukraine and the Law of Ukraine “On Trade Unions, Their Rights and Guarantees”. According to the provisions of the Draft Law:

– trade unions will be deprived of the rights as a social dialogue partner to agree on draft laws and other legislative acts in the field of labour and socio-economic relations;

– rights of primary trade union organizations in workplaces will be limited, cultural, sports, and health-improving activities will not be financed;

– trade union activists will be deprived of existing guarantees.

The draft Law of Ukraine “On Compulsory Cumulative Pension Provision” (No 2683) also poses threats to the social rights of citizens.  This draft was developed not openly by government officials and trade union representatives were denied the opportunity to discuss it and make suggestions during this process. Besides, its authors showed disregard for recommendations of the ILO report not to implement the cumulative pension system in Ukraine during the drafting of the Law “On Compulsory Cumulative Pension Provision”.

 According to Draft Law No 2683, employees will be forced to pay an additional pension contribution to a mandatory funded pension. At the same time, the authors of the Draft do not propose any real mechanisms for the protection of contribution funds from possible inflation, as well as from objective or artificial bankruptcy of asset managers.

Furthermore, the implementation of the Draft Law bears significant corruption risks and threatens of deepening the crisis of the existing joint system of compulsory state pension insurance. 

Trade unions held several protest actions against attack on labour and trade unions rights.

On January 15, the Committee on Social Policy and Protection of Veterans’ Rights  decided to establish a working group on discussing the draft No 2708.  The representatives of the trade unions, employers’ organizations participate in it. However, there is no guarantee, that all proposed amendments will be voted in the Parliament.