ON TUESDAY, 10 July, miners from Donetsk, Lugansk, Volyn, and Lviv regions held a protest in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. Since 6th July miners from the ‘Carbonit’ and ‘Toshkivska’ state enterprise (Pervomaiskvugillya) pits have been on strike and protesting against non-payment of wages. According to the chairman of the local organisation of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU), Roman Panchuk, the miners haven’t received 85% of their salaries for April and 100% for May.
Last Monday the No.9 ‘Novovolynska’ mine stopped working because of the workers’ protest when they demanded all their wage arrears. On 5th July, the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry, said that, according to the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, a distribution of budgetary funds took place. It was planned that 324 million Ukrainian Hryvnia ($12.36m) would be allocated for the coal industry wage arrears, including 9.5 million Ukrainian Hryvnia ($362.3m) for the SEO (state enterprise) ‘Volynvugillia’. However, these funds were never transferred to the state enterprises.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Energy and Coal Press Office, quoting the Minister Igor Nasalyk, claimed that because the miners had blocked the work of the Department, by their protests, its representatives couldn’t issue the relevant documents for transferring the allocated funds. But the NPGU pointed out that on 6th July the miners couldn’t have blocked the the Department’s work because they were at a meeting with the Minister in his office at Str. Khrechatyk 30, as the Department’s meeting was being held in another Ministry office.
Also, the NPGU has a video record of meeting with the Minister, where he explained that allocated funds would be transferred to the enterprises’ accounts on Monday after the appropriate proclamations were published in the government newspapers. Last Friday morning a group of miners, who had held protests near the Ukrainian Parliament, met with Energy Minister Nasalyk.
The wage arrears are already behind by three months, and amount to 1.1 billion Ukrainian Hryvnia ($41.95bn).
Miners told him that they would not return home until their back wages were paid. But during the emotional meeting between the miners, trade unionists and the Minister no agreement was reached.
At the same time, Nasalyk, who complained about the fact that he was spending too much time on the miners, could not come up with anything better than to threaten them with psychological treatment by bringing in a team of neurologists. He said some miners ‘are not in an adequate condition.’
The Chairman of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine and the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, Mykhailo Volynets, said fine, the miners would be happy to see the doctors – if the minister and his deputies do the same. At the same time, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman, insisted on the formation of a new coal mining policy, primarily in the state-owned sector where the amount of subsidies has reached threebillion Ukrainian Hryvnia ($114.41bn) during the ‘Hour of question to the Government’ in the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament).
‘The problems are chronic for the coal industry. The status of rights is unsatisfactory. It does not suit either the miners nor me as a prime minister,’ he said.
On 5th July in Kiev, miners from different regions of Ukraine started a protest near the Ukrainian Parliament. Activists and leaders of the NPGU joined this protest to draw the attention of the authorities to the problems in the coal industry.
The requirements of the NPGU are: 1. To pay the wage arrears of state enterprises of the coal industry of Ukraine immediately. 2. To bring back into public ownership the coal seams of the Mine ‘Kotlyarevska’ and the ‘Mine’ 1/3 Novogrodivskaya ‘of the state-owned enterprise, Selidivvuhillia’. 3. To eliminate the influence of so-called ‘overseers’ at all state-owned enterprises of the coal industry of Ukraine. 4. To approve the effective programme for the development of the coal industry for next 10 years.
NPGU Chairman Volynets said: ‘The total amount of wage debt in the coal industry state-owned enterprises has soared to 1.1 billion Ukrainian Hryvnia ($41.95bn) as salaries for June also haven’t been paid. ‘Miners see a systemic coal output reduction and a significant increase in coal imports. They don’t understand why there is no clear and effective programme for the development of the coal industry in Ukraine.
‘Another outrageous problem is the appointment of incompetent people, as well as so-called “overseers” in key positions at the state-owned enterprises.’ The Chairman of the local organisation of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine in the cities of Myrnohrad and Pokrovsky District (Donetsk region) Olexandr Abramov, also came to Kiev with miners of the state-owned enterprise Myrnohradvuhillia.
Abramov claimed: ‘Our miners have no money and their families are suffering. Miners haven’t received wages for May and June. We demand wage payment and adoption of the draft law No 8362 that allocates the financial support of the state sector of the coal industry. Miners are ready to start strikes and hold roadblock protests.’
His colleague, Chairman of the primary organisation of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine at the mine1/3 Novogrodivskaya, Sergii Pavlov, said that miners in the state-owned enterprise ‘Selidivvuhillia’ also demand the payment of salary arrears and the guarantee of stable work of the mines.
Pavlov explained: ‘If budget money isn’t allocated for the coal industry, there will be a closure of state mines and the decaying of mining towns. That’s why it’s very important to adopt the draft law No 8362.’ Following the protests it was reported that, in the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine, the distribution of budget funds had been started According to NPGU Chairman Volynets, 324 million Ukrainian Hryvnia ($12.36m) were allocated for the payment of wages debts. But miners are still protesting near the Ukrainian Parliament.
• Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), attended the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) expert conference, organised in Kiev on 26 June, by the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom, Harlem Désir.
Pointing out the deterioration of media freedom in the country, since 2015, Gutiérrez called on Ukrainian authorities to launch an action plan for the safety of journalists, together with all the relevant stakeholders, including the EFJ affiliates in the country, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Independent Media Trade Union (IMTU).
Gutiérrez reminded the conference that, regarding Ukraine, 37 major violations of media freedom, including two murders of journalists, have been reported to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists: six alerts in 2015, nine alerts in 2016, 14 alerts in 2017 and eight alerts for the first semester of 2018.
‘In 2015, we reported the murder of journalist Oles Buzyna, gunned down in Kiev. And in 2016, we reported the assassination of Belarussian journalist Pavel Sheremet, killed in a car explosion. ‘The Ukrainian authorities still haven’t arrested or prosecuted anyone for Sheremet’s assassination, but investigative journalists have discovered that an agent of Ukraine’s security service, SBU, had been sitting outside Sheremet’s building the night the bomb was planted on his car,’ said Gutiérrez.
The EFJ General Secretary stressed that impunity for journalists’ murders is an issue in Ukraine: ‘In addition to Buzyna and Sheremet, we still have open cases related to the killings of journalists Georgiy Gongadze, Viacheslav Veremii, Oleksandr Kuchynsk, Andrea Rocchelli, and Andrei Mironov.’
Ricardo Gutiérrez also called for the release of all detained journalists in all regions of Ukraine, including Stanyslav Aseev who is detained in Donbass, Dmytro Vasylets and Yevhen Timonin, who have been sentenced to nine years imprisonment for separatism, and RIA Novosti journalist Kyrylo Vyshynsky who is held on treason allegations.