Date: Wed, 18 Jun 97 08:42:02 CDT
Miners prepare to strike
ICFTU OnLine, 163/970616/LD, 16 June 1997
Brussels, June 16 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): Protest action by miners in the Lvov and Loutsk (west Ukraine) regions is expected tomorrow. The miners have not been paid for months and discontent in the mining regions has led to acts of desperation. Last Saturday (June 14), 17 miners on hunger strike, including four in a serious condition, were hospitalized after ten days of fasting in the galleries of western Ukraine's coal mines. The miners' action may culminate in a general strike on July 1. The miners' trade union movement in Ukraine, including the 60,000 member NPHU, is a force to be reckoned with.
In February last year there was a wave of wildcat strikes in protest at the non-payment of wages. They ended when the government promised to honour its debts. In July however, the miners still hadn't been paid and decided to resume their action, led this time by the NPHU. Forced into negotiations, the government finally excluded the NPHU from the discussions and signed an agreement with the two other organisations. The NPHU then complained of an intimidation campaign by the government aimed at breaking the union (arrest of leaders, raids on union premises, interrogations and surveillance by the special services). Strikes also took place at the beginning of the year in the Donbass region, in the east of the country.
Like most of the former USSR states, Ukraine is in the red. It owes its workers at least two billion dollars. What distinguishes the country from the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, however, is its rapidly spiralling debt. In the first six months of 1996, Ukraine's debt rose by 450% (compared to 224% in Russia over the same period). In October 1996, the unpaid wage bill was 180 times higher than two years earlier.
Meeting in Geneva, the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) committee on the application of standards has severely criticised the Ukraine for failing to respect the international convention on the right to remuneration.
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