Capitalist rulers attack Ukraine unions, seize offices

By Roy Landersen
January 22, 2024

Ukraine’s capitalist rulers, with the urging of their imperialist backers in Washington, are using wartime conditions and claims they’re advancing “de-Sovietization” to attack the union movement and weaken its ability to fight to protect workers’ interests. This includes moves to seize buildings and offices that were formerly state property under the Soviet Union and now are used by the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU), the largest union federation in the country.

This attack is part of a broader assault on Ukraine’s unions being promoted by the government. The country’s two main union federations — the FPU, whose continuity dates back to the state-sponsored unions under the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union, and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) — have joined together to fight these attacks.

The KVPU was founded out of the Independent Miners Union, which led a series of mass strikes and protest marches in 1989 and 1991 as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

The working class is the backbone of Ukraine’s production and defense today.

Claiming the unions are wracked with corruption, and taking advantage of wartime martial law that bans strikes and protests, the government is moving to seize the FPU’s properties.

To carry this through, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ruling party is trying to replace state consultative bodies that include union representation with a bogus “Confederation of Trade Unions” it has created, led by Serhiy Kaplin, a bourgeois politician and former candidate for president. Kaplin is campaigning to carry through the seizure of the FPU properties.

Making a thinly veiled threat, Kaplin told openDemocracy that war veterans could be used to “restore order” and remove “corrupt” union leaders. The key prize in this property fight is Kyiv’s Trade Unions House, which was at the center of the Maidan popular uprising a decade ago that brought down the pro-Moscow regime of Viktor Yanukovych, advancing the struggle for Ukrainian independence. It was gutted by fire Feb. 19, 2014, amid murderous assaults by Yanukovych’s riot police on protesters taking shelter there.

Over the next five years the building was fully restored with the help of unions all over the world. It continues to house a number of national unions.

The FPU says that by the end of 2022 most buildings under its auspices were used for people displaced by the war.