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Article

20 May 2022

Author:
Serhiy Guz, Open Democracy

Ukraine: New labour law draft severely jeopardizes workers & trade unions' rights, experts say

Ukraine’s new labour law could ‘open Pandora’s box’ for workers, 20 May 2022

...In March, the Ukrainian parliament passed wartime legislation that severely curtailed the ability of trade unions to represent their members, introduced ‘suspension of employment’ (meaning employees are not fired, but their work and wages are suspended) and gave employers the right to unilaterally suspend collective agreements...

But beyond this temporary measure, a group of Ukrainian MPs and officials are now aiming to further ‘liberalise’ and ‘de-Sovietise’ the country’s labour laws. Under a draft law, people who work in small and medium-sized firms – those which have up to 250 employees – would, in effect, be removed from the country’s existing labour laws and covered by individual contracts negotiated with their employer. More than 70% of the Ukrainian workforce would be affected by this change.

Against a background of concerns that Ukrainian officials are using Russia’s invasion to push through a long-awaited radical deregulation of labour laws, one expert has warned that the introduction of civil law into labour relations risks opening a “Pandora’s box” for workers...

At the start of May, Ukraine’s Trade Union of Metallurgists and Miners wrote to management at the ArcelorMittal plant in Kryvyi Rih, the largest steelworks in the country. The union claimed that, in April, ArcelorMittal management had suspended parts of their collective agreement regarding trade union activity, but also social welfare and benefits for employees...

To inform people, Social Movement, a Ukrainian civic organisation, has created a ‘black list of employers’. This includes companies that have unilaterally suspended all or part of collective agreements, or have significantly changed working conditions in violation of Ukraine’s labour laws. Almost two dozen enterprises are on the list, including the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s national railway company, Odesa Port and the Kyiv Metro.

Now, however, Ukrainian parliamentarians have decided to go even further and are looking to adopt a more radical reform of the country’s labour laws, which would extend far beyond wartime...