On the Picket Line

Hundreds of coal miners protest in Ukraine over lack of pay

By Brian Williams
May 31, 2021

Over 500 miners from state-owned coal mining operations in Donetsk, Volyn, Lviv and Luhansk protested at government offices in Kyiv May 12 over months of government nonpayment of wages. The main demands of the miners, the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) said, are for the government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy to pay 2 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($73 million) of outstanding wages and drop draft laws targeting trade union rights.

“You cannot humiliate people who work in dangerous conditions, who risk their lives every day,” NPGU Chair Mykhailo Volynets said at the demonstration.

Nonindustrial workers in the mining sector, many of whom are women, veterans and other workers with wages lower than miners, are also fighting to get unpaid wages.

After negotiations with the union, as the protest continued, Volynets announced that the new minister of energy, Herman Haluschenko, had agreed to transfer more than $30 million to pay miners’ back wages and also to pay wage arrears for January, February and March to the nonindustrial workers.

“The protest action has been suspended,” because of the concessions, Volynets said. “However, the miners are ready to return with protests if the authorities, the government, the minister of energy do not listen and do not respond in a dignified manner to the problems.”