Some 500 rail workers, members of the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine (VPZU), and trade unionists from across the country picketed the central office of Ukrainian Railways in Kiev March 19. The union is demanding a wage increase, pensions, improved medical services and protection against layoffs.
The majority of Ukrainian rail workers receive a minimum wage of 3,723 hryvnya per month ($137). Many work overtime to try and keep up with the cost of living.
“Our main requirement is to raise wages for railway workers urgently,” VPZU Chairman Volodymyr Kozelskyi said at the action. “We want justice for our workers.”
Company bosses came out to talk to the rail workers and agreed to discussions. On March 20, the union’s wage demands were raised with the Parliament Committee on Transport. Negotiations began March 26, discussing “concrete percentages of raising salaries for workers,” said Kozelskyi.
The state-owned company is the 12th largest railroad system in the world, with some 263,000 workers running both freight and passenger service. Last year the workers organized a work-to-rule protest against low wages, deteriorating working conditions and the dangerous state of the trains.