Ukraine coal miners break ban on strikes, protests

By John Studer
October 17, 2022

Despite the Ukraine capitalist government’s imposition of a ban on strikes and protests following Moscow’s invasion in February, coal miners went on strike at Mine No. 9 in Novovolynsk Sept. 14 to block a new manager from seizing control of the mine. Miners believe his appointment would signal a return to corrupt management, delays in payment of wages, cuts in maintenance and the closing of the mine. 

A few days earlier Sergei Trotsko had showed up there with some papers from the Ministry of Energy and a band of “Titushkis” — thugs in Ukrainian — saying he was the new manager. 

This is not the first time Trotsko has tried to take over a coal mine. Three years ago he showed up at the Lvivvuhillia state coal mine in Lviv oblast, but was blocked by coal miners there. Before coming to Novovolynsk, he had gone to the Nadiya mine, also in Lviv, where he used to work, saying he was there to install a new manager. Miners there held a sit-down strike underground for three days. 

It also wasn’t the first time people associated with the energy ministry had tried to impose a new manager in Novovolynsk. Dozens of workers rallied outside the mine office Aug. 2, using a tractor as a barricade, to stop the installation of Viktor Herashchenko. He had been part of management at another mine where officials are under investigation for embezzlement. 

At a Sept. 9 general meeting, 245 Novovolynsk miners signed a motion of no confidence in Trotsko. Mykhailo Volynets, president of the Ukrainian Independent Union of Coal Miners, tried to intervene on their behalf. Trotsko called the cops, who opened an investigation of “obstruction” of his work. 

What happened after these confrontations? Kateryna Semchuk, a reporter from openDemocracy, visited the mine and found that 48 miners had received mobilization orders from the armed forces. Miners felt the orders were reprisals aimed at getting them to stop their fight. 

There is no question about the miners’ support for Ukraine’s fight to defend its independence. “Mine No. 9 workers bake pies for Ukrainian soldiers in their canteen and sent the equivalent of $44,375 to the army — a month’s salary for all of the mine’s workers,” wrote Semchuk. “About 50 workers from the mine have already been conscripted to the army and are fighting on the front,” with those left trying to keep up production. 

The fight is unresolved. “We are ready to stand till the end,” Serhiy Petryk, a miner with 18 years experience there, told Semchuk.