Uranium miners at the Eastern Mining and Processing Plant in the Kirovograd region of Ukraine refused to work starting June 15. They’re demanding payment of back wages for April and May. The next day the workers, members of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU), called an “open-ended protest.”
Some 5,000 miners and processing workers toil at the state-owned complex, the largest iron ore facility in the country. The uranium is made into nuclear fuel by the TVEL fuel company of Russia for use in Ukraine’s nuclear reactors.
Miners protested near the parliament building, the Cabinet of Ministers and the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. They organized a roadblock near the village of Berezhenke.
“The issue of payment of salary arrears and ensuring the stable operation of the Eastern Mining and Processing Plant is a matter of the future of miners and their families,” Mikhailo Volynets, chairman of the NPGU, told the media.
The workers are also demanding safe working conditions, a say in how the mine is run, and wage raises. Some 80 miners and their supporters remained overnight outside Zelenskyy’s office.
Following the demonstrations, the government transferred $4.7 million to pay the back wages, and the minister of energy and coal industry and other government officials met with a delegation of miners. They agreed to hold further sessions over the miners’ demand for changes in how the mines are run.
Dmytro Bondariev, chairman of the union at the mine complex, announced June 17 that they were suspending their protest pending the results of the next round of talks, planned to begin June 22. Miners said they’re ready to resume protests if they don’t get satisfactory results.