Ukrainian healthcare workers demand justice

The unwillingness of the oligarchic authorities to provide the necessary funds to protect people’s health under the pandemic has driven healthcare workers to the streets.  On the initiative of the newly created movement for health care entitled “Bud’ yak Nina” (Be like Nina (#BeLikeNina)), on 16 December activist hospital nurses of Ukraine gathered in Independence Square (maidan), while simultaneously their colleagues protested in the regions. Social Movement [ Соціальний рух ] supported this protest, declaring support for the struggle for labour rights of healthcare workers and for accessibility to treatment. Unfortunately, the politicians stayed true to the interests of capital: on 17 December they passed legislation which weakened off-shore provisions. Therefore the people will be paying for medication and help, and not the richest elite. The struggle for social interests to defeat egoism will continue …

The protests throughout Ukraine on “action to improve health care” took place on 16 December 2020. Health workers united around a series of demands which to some extent dealt with the allocation of budgetary costs. But just the day before the protest, the Deputies fulfilled the worst expectations: on 15 December they approved a budget for 2021 which effectively does not deal with coronavirus. In the first instance it means one more year of humiliation,  fear and risk to people’s lives. Healthcare workers’ anger was without bounds: They talked about buying medication with their own money, being pressured to undertake unpaid work, the removal of guarantees for mothers … Thus the healthcare community declared to all central bodies of power that they intended to fight in the new year against the violation of their rights.

Social Movement activists raised the slogans, “de-oligarchization – cure against poverty” and “Lockdown for offshore provisions, not for requisitions”. The slogans demonstrate the links between underfunding health provisions and lowering taxes for oligarchs. Healthcare provisions will be financed by people’s pockets, which according to healthcare workers is unacceptable. “This criminal government has made doctors complicit in criminality because medical help should be free”, declared Oksana Slobodyan a participant in the “Be like Nina” movement. “The regime has made us complicit in the situation, resulting in the suffering of the middle and lower personnel ranks and the patients. It is time to break the closed cycle.”  The action was supportedin Zaporizhia, Kyiv region, Lviv, Volyn and Kharkiv.

During the march, participants chanted:

–        Health will suffer, because money is going offshore

–        Let the elite pay for health and education

–        Fund the nurses not the oligarchs

–        A dignified health system is the future of Ukraine

–        Provide finances, not reforms

–        It’s not a budget, but a shame. You have no conscience

–        Deputies-parasites don’t give nurses a living wage

In front of the Parliament building, protesters voiced their opinions on parliamentarians’ policies. The head of the health movement, “Be Like Nina”, Nina Kozlovska described the approved budget as “genocidal” and one in which healthcare staff were doomed to a beggarly existence.

It is not possible to ignore the relationship between policies in the field of healthcare and the interests of the elite. Speaking in front of the Rada building, the head of the council of the Social Movement Vitaliy Dudin suggested that the Deputies were doing everything possible not to overcome the pandemic. The continuation of quarantining allows the government to continue its moratorium on labour and tax inspections. Based on responses to questions, the quarantine has been used to stop a whole series of reviews of controlled operations, for example, contracts concluded with companies in ‘tax heavens’. The budget will stay empty as long as resources are concentrated in the hands of a group of extremely rich people. “A healthy medical system cannot exist in the conditions of unhealthy Ukrainian capitalism,” declared V. Dudin. The “vaccine”-way out of the coronavirus crisis would be the de-oligarchization, which would include the banning of sending capital offshore, the nationalisation of profitable industries, and the registration of foreign debt. Then the budgetary demand of the Ministry of Health for 296 bn hryvni would become a reality.

The protest ended up at the Office of the President, where healthcare workers called for him to veto the anti social budget. But the class resistance between  people and their so-called elected representatives did not finish on this.

On the following day, on 17 December 2020, parliamentarians confirmed that they would be guided by the demands of business, and not by the interests of the majority. By adopting Draft Law No 4065 they have postponed entry into force of the law, the introduction of which was demanded by the international community. The first report about companies with foreign capital will be in 2024, and the burden of demonstrating its integrity will fall onto a taxation body. The neo-liberal policies triumph again, while the corporations can relax. This is cynically understood on the basis that the whole world is talking about increasing pressure on corporations to help during the pandemic covid19.

The explanatory note to the draft law states the following:

“a complicated situation has arisen due to the pandemic covid 19 and the introduction of quarantining which has created complex challenges for business, which in the first instance are responsible for collecting data and paying taxes. In relation to this there has arisen a necessity to postpone specific statutes under Law No 466-IX (About amendments to the tax code of Ukraine on the improvement of taxation administration, the removal of technical or logical inconsistencies in tax legislation …).

Now the authorities are openly sabotaging the moves to eliminate offshorism, and are in fact taking into account annual deviations due to offshore companies, amounting to 1.1 bn hryvni (according to our calculations,  every year the budget is losing 70 bn hryvni). The growth of new mechanisms to counter the tax avoidance was aimed to empower tax authorities.

The results of assistance to greedy corporate owners will be painful. As stated during the action by Oleksiy Hromov, a member of the Social Movement council, this time the doctors did not come to plead with the Deputies, but to warn them about the catastrophic results of underfunding healthcare provisions. When the deficit reaches its full scale, the angry masses of healthcare workers will come to the buildings of governing bodies. “Ukrainian health workers are highly qualified professionals in their field. Their profession will be taken advantage of in private and foreign hospitals; this is where they might be forced to go if the government ignores their demands,” said a left activist.

Nevertheless one must believe that solidarity will help to overcome the worst scenarios. Having received a large number of positive responses to the action, the head of “Be Like Nina”  declared that their activities will increase.

The struggle for promotion social interests against egoism will continue …

Republished from Social Movement: Медицині горе, бо гроші в офшорах, – протест медсестер (ФОТО)Соціальний рух (