By Christopher Ford
Nataliya Prystynsky an activist of the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine (VPZU) has won a significant victory against her victimisation and union busting efforts by the employers.
Nataliya who is a trolley bus driver at the Kurenivsky depot of KP Kyivpastrans company, has been subject to a series of actions against her in revenge for the organisation of the union in 2016. This was followed by a major dispute with employers over safety and working conditions of work at the Kyiv depot, which secured international support at the time.
The Podilsky District Court of Kyiv declared two of the disciplinary penalties illegal, imposed a court costs of awarded compensation to Natalya. This has been a long campaign – the original actions were taken by the employer in October and November 2016. In April 2016, together with her fellow workers, Natalya organised the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine at the Kurenivsky Trolleybus Depot of Kyivpastrans. Since then, the founders of the VPZU branch have been subject to disciplinary action on a regular basis, something they have not had in their entire careers previously. The court concluded that the acting director Ruslan Karabchuk in takin action against Natalya had failed to comply with the requirements of Article 252 of the Labor Code of Ukraine.
Natalya said: “I am happy with the result and thank everyone who supported our struggle over the years. I advise all trade unions to remember the guarantees provided by Article 252 of the Labor Code. “
It is symptomatic of the legal system in Ukraine that the legal case was started in January 2017, and the decision was made only on November 10, 2020. Vitaliy Dudin, the head of the organisation Соціальний рух (Social Movement) who represented Natalya in court, considers the victory to be significant: “This case can tell us a lot about the inefficiency of the judicial system: if there are obvious grounds to satisfy the lawsuit, the process lasted for almost 4 years. On the other hand, this story testified to the high motivation of the claimant and her readiness to go onto the end. “
An earlier court hearing in September overturned another disciplinary imposed in 2019. So far, all three reprimands imposed on Natalya have been overturned.
The bitter dispute in 2016-2017 in the depot, where drivers refused to work on faulty vehicles, attracted international solidarity. John Cryer MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party submitted an Early Day Motion (EDM 934) in February 2017 expressing solidarity with the VPZU in their dispute and condemned the intimidation and violations of the condemns such the ILO Conventions. Two workers Oleksandr Bukhanenko and Tetyana Oliynyk, who were dismissed were then reinstated.
A further court case regarding action taken against the leader of the VPZU branch Andriy Samko in pending. Despite the efforts to supress the union, VPZU continues to organise.
TREATMENT OF TRANSPORT WORKERS IN KYIVPASTRANS IN UKRAINE – EDM (Early Day Motion)934:
That this House is deeply concerned at the treatment of workers of the Kurynivske trolleybus depot of the Municipal Enterprise, Kyivpastrans, in Ukraine currently on hunger strike; notes that members of the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine have sought legal recognition and raised concerns regarding unsafe vehicles, while in response trade union members have been subjected to intimidation and been denied wages, suspended and evicted from company-provided housing while there has been physical violence against a woman employee; further notes that these matters are known to the State Labour Service of Ukraine; condemns such conduct as in violation of the ILO Conventions and the requirements of the Association Agreement with the EU; calls on Kiev City Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, to intervene and ensure the cancellation of all the evictions of union members from their accommodation, reinstatement of dismissed employees, and a full investigation into all forms of intimidation against trade union members; and further calls upon the Mayor to start negotiations with the union.
John Cryer MP