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Vol. 81/No. 3      January 16, 2017


Ukrainian workers protest while social crisis spreads

Transit workers, miners and teachers in Ukraine have carried out protest actions recently against union busting, deteriorating living conditions and unpaid wages. Their unions were born in struggles during the coming apart of the Stalinist Soviet Union over 25 years ago and during the Maidan — three months of working-class mobilizations and pitched street battles that led to the overthrow of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Bus and trolley drivers in Kiev, members of the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine (VZPU), which formed a couple years ago, rallied Dec. 21 protesting attacks by management at the city transport company Kyivpastrans. Militant correspondents had a chance to talk with a number of VZPU members on a trip to Ukraine in 2015.

Bosses have refused to recognize the union, pressured workers to resign from it, suspended two leaders, evicted some workers from their housing and carried out physical assaults. The unionists demand that the acting director cease harassment and threats against them and their families, Andrei Samko, union chairman at the Karabchuka depot, said at the protest.

The unionists are soliciting protest letters to Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko demanding a halt to “discrimination, bullying and intimidation of trade union members,” recognition of the VZPU and dismissal of the abusive manager.

Coal miners at state-owned mine no. 10 in Novovolynsk, near the Polish border in western Ukraine, carried out a hunger strike Nov. 7-14 demanding three months’ back pay. They ended the strike after authorities promised to pay what they owed.

Some 15,000 teachers picketed the Cabinet of Ministers and parliament in Kiev Nov. 1, protesting the soaring cost of housing and utilities and the fact that while the government recently increased the minimum wage, pay rates for teachers remain frozen. The action was called by the Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine, formed in 1990 and affiliated to the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine.  
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