Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 18:06:31 GMT
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Ukraine Coal Miners Vow to Continue Strike
Reuter, 8 February 1996
DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuter) - Thousands of Ukrainian miners wrapped against sub-zero temperatures vowed Thursday to press on with a week-old strike, ignoring warnings that their stoppage could topple Ukraine's creaking industry.
Up to 5,000 miners in the heart of the aging Donbass coalfield said they would stay out of the mines until they received wages unpaid for months and more state subsidies.
In Kiev, Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk said the miners would get no more than $79 million already pledged, less than two thirds of what the strikers demand as a minimum. Miners, he said, had to get used to market reforms.
"Until the lights are snuffed out in Kiev, no one is going to pay any attention to us," trade unionist Viktor Derzhak told Reuters after the rally. "We are the first to get up off our knees. If we save the coal industry we will save Ukraine."
Red Communist flags fluttered over the square after overnight temperatures hit minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Banners alongside read: "We're hungry. Give us back our money."
Government ministers said Thursday the strike had bitten into fuel reserves and, if continued, could force industry shutdowns and plunge whole districts into darkness.
Miners, who earn up to $75 per month, have confined demands to money issues, reflecting the loss of influence they have suffered since the days of communism.
But the resolution approved at the rally added a call to change social policy "now dictated by the World Bank." Trade unions meeting in Kiev demanded the government reopen talks with the miners and threatened to stage sympathy strikes.
The government, mindful of the demands of an International Monetary Fund delegation in Kiev, says it can provide no more funds from the budget and is pressing the industry to collect unpaid bills from power stations and other big customers.
"We work on the logic of economics. The miners must realize that the government is doing all it can," Marchuk told a news conference.
"The main reason for the strike is a delay in reforming the coal industry. We will proceed with changes, strike or not."