Two years of war: EPSU in solidarity with Ukrainian workers

International solidarity meeting Ukraine

(23 February 2024) After two years of Russian aggression, EPSU reiterates its support to the Ukrainian people. At the international solidarity meeting with Ukrainian and international trade unions held on 22 February 2024, EPSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan recalled: “We express our full solidarity with Ukrainian workers, the unions and the people. Health and care workers, firefighters, civil servants and utility workers  are working in incredible difficult situations. Russia is brutally attacking them.  Without Russian troop withdrawal, peace is out of reach.”.

During these 730 days of war, more than 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced, either within the country or as international refugees. Many thousands of civilians and public service workers have been killed in Ukraine, and many more have been seriously injured. The Russian bombardment of Ukrainian territory is making the economic and social situation more than precarious. Ukraine is now one of the countries in the world with the highest food insecurity due to inaccessible soils. Millions have lost their jobs and has fallen into critical poverty.

EPSU has nine affiliates in Ukraine representing tens of thousands of members. These workers are facing the destruction of their workplaces, their union facilities, and their homes. Workers are being injured and killed. As public service workers, many of our members continue to work in often extreme conditions, in health and care services, in water and energy, in education and in other key sectors. Nearly 1,550 attacks on health care facilities have been documented by the WHO since February 2022, resulting in countless deaths and injuries.

In this regard, we call on all to respect and protect in all circumstances health facilities, civilian and military medical units in line with International Humanitarian Law. Reiterating the words of the WHO, we stress that health providers must be protected so they are allowed to treat the injured, and to save lives.

Crime against humanity and war crimes committed by Russian forces must be unequivocally prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC). We are convinced that this war is not what the majority of workers in Russia want if they were able to express themselves freely and democratically. EPSU wants the war to end as soon as possible but considers that only a withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory can bring this to a stop. We support the Ukrainian trade unions who joined the national efforts to counter the imperialist aggression, and we are calling for economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine to be stepped up.

Ukraine's future is European. In this spirit, Ukraine will need unity for national reconstruction build on respect for labour rights and social dialogue as the basis for a new industrial and employment policy and therefore the necessary relaunch of its industrial relations. We regret that actions by Ukrainian authorities and employers systematically violate workers and trade union rights that can make the path to the EU more complicated and time-consuming. The new draft labour code proposal must be withdrawn immediately.

The EU leaders must make clear to the Ukrainian government that the accession process must be based on adhering to social dialogue, involving social partners, as well as ensuring the full respect of trade union rights and social rights. The increase in Ukraine's level of debt must be addressed through debt cancellation. The EU and IMF must  not repeat the same privatization mistakes of the past. Ukraine's future cannot be limited to structural reforms that will increase inequalities, lead to regional imbalances, and undermine public services. Consequently, social cohesion and general well-being of the vast majority of the population will only be possible through a comprehensive social investment program. On that matter, Jan Willem Goudriaan is very clear: “The workers and the trade unions must be involved in building the future of the economy and society. International aid must be tied to social conditionalities and decent working conditions and collective agreements. Under no circumstances should this aid benefit the oligarchs and create more inequality.”

EPSU reiterates its demands:

- An immediate end to the hostilities of Russia in Ukraine and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from all the occupied Ukrainian territories in accordance with international law and the UN Charter guaranteeing the sovereignty of Ukraine. Diplomacy must achieve this rapidly rather than an escalation of the war.

- That the reconstruction of Ukraine must have labour and union values at its centre and must contribute to social justice, democracy and an inclusive society. At the end of martial law, full labour and trade union rights must be restored. We support the Ukrainian unions and social movements in their resistance to liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation of public services.

EPSU calls on its members to continue to express their concrete solidarity with the workers and citizens of Ukraine by contributing to our solidarity fund. Donations will be used to support local unions in their humanitarian efforts.

Account holder: Internationale des Services Publics
Account No.: 298 630 310 690 0
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If you do not mention Ukraine in your bank transfer, please inform [email protected] of your donation and specify that it is for Ukraine.