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Vol. 81/No. 12      March 27, 2017


Union blames Ukraine gov’t in mine explosion that kills 8

On March 2, eight coal miners from the Lviv region in western Ukraine were killed at the state-owned underground Stepova mine. Another 21 were hospitalized with serious injuries and burns, including six who are in critical condition. Of the 34 miners working where the blast occurred, many were trapped 1,800 feet below ground for several hours.

According to Mykhailo Volynets, chair of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, the explosion was caused by an accumulation of methane gas and unsafe cables the bosses used that failed to meet accepted standards. “This created sparks and high levels of methane — a bomb.”

In the aftermath of the explosion, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman admitted government funding for rescue equipment investment is only 15 to 20 percent of what is needed.

The Independent Trade Union was forged in 1989-91 in a wave of massive strikes and protests by miners and other workers for higher pay and safer conditions, combined with political demands, including an end to domination by Moscow. These actions helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union and for an independent Ukraine.

Last November, 50 coal miners at the state-owned No. 10 Novovolynska mine, near the Polish border, carried out a hunger strike demanding three months’ back pay and greater investment of state funds.

Four city trolley car workers went on a hunger strike in Kiev Feb. 6 to protest harassment and firings of union activists there — members of the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers — and against unsafe work conditions. “Just imagine: the drivers are forced to drive with old, ‘bald’ tires,” Volynets, who stayed with the strikers, told the press. “It is terrible to think what might happen when there’s snow and ice on the road.”  
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