Over 350 coal miners and their supporters marched in Lviv, Ukraine, Feb. 6, protesting outside government offices. The miners, including members of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU), were demanding their unpaid wages for the last month and a half from the Lvivvugillia state-owned mines.
The workers are owed 210 million hryvnia ($7.7 million). Some 4,000 of the 12,000 miners in the Lviv region are members of the NPGU.
Union President Mykhailo Volynets told the Militant Feb. 8 that the Ministry of Energy and the Coal Industry claims it cannot pay into the miners’ health care fund. Volynets said that 60 percent of miners either have black lung or have been injured in the mines.
In one of the Lvivvugillia mines, Stepova, eight miners died and 21 were injured in March 2017 after a methane gas explosion and tunnel collapse. At the time, Volynets told the media, “The government said they lacked money to provide safety, to buy new equipment and modernize the mines.”
Volynets told the Militant that deteriorating conditions in the mines are a result of “the ongoing war with the Russian Federation and corruption in the Ukrainian government.”
“At the same time Ukraine miners aren’t being paid, the government is spending money to import more coal from Russia, even though Ukraine has huge coal resources,” he said. The Kyiv Post reported that imported coal increased by 11 percent from 2017 to 2018. “And incredibly, 62 percent of those imports — $1.7 billion worth — came from Russia, a country that is waging war against Ukraine.”
For over two years miners in Ukraine’s state-owned coal industry both in the Lviv and Donetsk regions have carried out strikes with round-the-clock picketing, sat in at the mines, and blocked entrances to mine bosses’ offices and roads leading toward the mines. They have rallied outside parliament demanding the government pay them back wages. The miners have won some back pay but still face unpaid wages.
NPGU was forged in 1989-91 in a wave of massive strikes and protests by miners and other workers for higher pay and safer conditions. They also raised political demands, which helped lead to an independent Ukraine.
Messages of solidarity for the Lviv miners can be sent to the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, St. Velyka Vasylkivska 65, Office 39, Kiev 03150, Ukraine. Email: email@example.com