Withdraw law that attacks trade unions in Ukraine ask participants at a European meeting

Representatives from Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania meeting in Kiev, August 2015

(31 August 2015) The draft law on registration of trade unions should be withdrawn in the Ukrainian parliament. This was the conclusion of several European trade unionists. They considered the consequences of the law on the workers and their unions. The draft makes it much more difficult to organise workers. It also fits in statements of Parliamentary and government representatives to weaken the trade unions. The law was proposed without any discussion with the unions by a group of parliamentarians. The unionists discussed the law in a meeting of EPSU.

The Ukrainian representatives presented the major social-economic issues workers and people are facing. Many risk dropping below the poverty line. The meeting was agreed at the last constituency meeting to show solidarity with the Ukrainian unions. They are facing a very difficult situation as the war is an every day presence. The economic situation has worsened. Public budgets for health, education and other public services are continuously reduced. The pressure to privatise municipal services and companies is high. There is much corruption. It effects the functioning of the judicial system. A class of oligarchs concentrates power and inequality is growing.

The participants also adopted a statement on the issues addressed. The statement underlines that the concerns of the Ukrainian unions are not just theirs. They are shared by EPSU affiliates in many countries. The critique can not be set aside as being "unpatriotic". This is what many of the Ukrainian media do when the austerity policies, corruption are questioned. A Georgian colleague of an affiliate made clear: "We are not here to be the darlings of the government, or anybody. Trade unions defend the interests of our members and workers against attacks from employers and governments. And as public service unions, we stand for quality and the public interest".

Another focus of the meeting was on organising and recruitment. Our Dutch colleague Eddie Stam presented his experience. He is available to work with affiliated unions to consider possible approaches to recruitment and organising. Several presentations were made about organising projects in the Ukraine and of affiliated unions. The EPSU General Secretary participated in the meeting. He stressed the emphasis that is needed on organising and recruitment to address the continuing decline in membership in many unions and countries. We should consider how this reflects on the work and regional activities of EPSU. Our capacity to cooperate and campaign together should be strengthened.

The meeting took place 26-27 August 2015, Kiev. Participants came from Armenia, Belo-Russia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine. Olexii Romanyuk (Trade Union of workers in Municipal Economy, Local Industries and Population Services), president of the constituency and PSI Board member chaired the meeting.

Jan Willem and Olexii met with the chair of the Trade Union House Revival Fund, 25th. They inspected the building and the project to renovate it. The building was burned on 19 February 2015 when riot/ secret police attacked the people in it. The TV-images of the black smoke coming out were world news. The building stood at the corner of the Maidan. Over the course of the revolution 30.000 people were fed in the cantine of the trade union house. Neither the cantine, not the offices of the affiliates were there anymore. The debris has been cleared. The interior has been stripped bare. The 4th and 5th floors were most damaged by the fire and the (frozen) water. Reparations have been done to ensure the building does not deteriorate. All the necessary pre-work has been done to make it ready for renovation. The unions are looking for co-investors. We discussed the possible use of the funds that have been collected by EPSU following the call for solidarity. This will be used to assist in setting up the offices, office equipment and furniture as suggested by the Ukrainian affiliates.