A Kyiv mine worker rally protesting $71 million wage theft by state-owned coal-mining enterprises last week resulted in multiple concessions from the country’s Ministry of Energy. These included:
- Transferring more than $30 million on May 12 to state-owned coal mining companies’ accounts to pay back wages
- Directly paying back wages from the first three months of this year to non-industrial employees
- Committing to meeting regularly with the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) to strategize on the industry’s future
- Working with the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) to appropriately address low coal prices—including working toward a total ban on electricity and coal imports from Russia and Belarus, where oligarch control and failure to respect internationally accepted worker rights enables the low coal prices that are pushing Ukraine’s miners out of work.
“People who work in dangerous conditions, risk their lives every day and whose work depends on the country’s energy security must not be humiliated” said NPGU Chairperson Mykhailo Volynets during the rally.
The May 12 rally, which was located near Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Kyiv office, brought together more than 500 mine workers from Donetsk, Luhansk, Lviv and Volyn. Protestors asserted Ukraine citizens’ constitutional right to renumeration for work performed, highlighted the difficult conditions for families of miners suffering wage theft and demanded postponement of labor-related draft laws that would eliminate labor and trade union rights. The rally follows on the heels on an 11-day protest last year over the same issues.
Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko said that, going forward, his ministry is committed to regular meetings with energy sector union leaders and miners to address long-term problems. “We are always open to dialogue and discussion of transformation concepts… But, for this, we need to work out mechanisms for constant normal communication,” he said.
In recognition of the Ministry of Energy’s concessions, NPGU suspended the protest. However, warned Volynets: “[T]he miners are ready to return with protests if the authorities, the government, the new Minister of Energy do not listen.”