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Breakthrough in Ukrainian miners struggle

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Chris Ford of the Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign reports on the struggle for wages by the Kryvyi Rih miners in Ukraine.

We are pleased to announce a major breakthrough in the struggle of the miners of Kryvyi Rih which has been a beacon of hope in crisis ridden Ukraine.

After being ignored for months the miners of the Ukrainian industrial metropolis of Kryvyi Rih have had a breakthrough in their dispute with the corporate giant EVRAZ, securing a nearly 20% increase in their wages.

The local leaders the Independent Union of Mineworkers of Ukraine (NGPU) Oleksandr Bondar and Yuri Samoilov, pointed out that attention has been drawn away from the extreme deterioration in the social-economic situation, which is one of the main causes of the crisis in Ukraine. With currency devaluation, a rise in prices of consumer goods, transport and basic services, “all this has led to a sharp fall in workers’ real wages. By our estimates there has been a 30-50% fall in real wages.”

As Bondar and Samoilov write: “We are deeply convinced that the main cause of the destabilised situation in the country is the greed of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers, send all their profits off-shore and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine.”

The miners employed by EVRAZ at Suha Balka mine submitted a claim for a 50% pay rise and improvements to their conditions. NGPU began organising strike action, which is a convoluted process due to Ukraine’s restrictive Labour Code. This activity was accompanied by a direct appeal for international solidarity, specifically calling “upon the workers of Britain for solidarity”.

The Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign played an important role in publicising widely the appeal of the Kryvyi Rih miners to the workers of Europe.

On 23rd May the United Steelworkers Union in Canada picketed the EVRAZ plant in Regina in solidarity with the Ukrainian miners, prompting the Vice President of Human Capital to fly directly from the North American HQ in Chicago. This was joined by a protest at the EVRAZ London HQ by socialists and trade unionists of the Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign on the same day.

The demands for Justice for the Kryvyi Rih miners were also raised in the House of Commons in an Early Day Motion (137) by John McDonnell MP and in a the National Assembly of Wales tabled by Mick Antoniw.

When an official notice of dispute was served bringing the miners’ strike action nearer, a picket headed by John McDonnell MP was held at the EVRAZ AGM on 12th June at Abramovich’s Chelsea FC.

The top share-holder of EVRAZ is Roman Abramovich worth $14.2 billion, next in line Alexander Abramov is worth $7.5 billion. The average monthly salary at Evraz’s Sukha Balka mine is 5290 Hryvnia, a mere £262.85.

This combination of international solidarity and the miner’s campaign brought the oligarchs to the negotiating table the very next day. The campaign forcing a concession from the EVRAZ Corporation providing for a salary increase for all workers of 15 - 20%. There is now ongoing negotiations between the NGPU and the EVRAZ management.

Whilst recognising this as a small concession, its achievement in its self was a big step forward. The local union newsletter Slovo summed up: “Together we are a force to be reckoned with!”

Oleksandr Bondar, Head of the branch of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine at the EVRAZ Sukha Balka declared: “We pass on our gratitude to everyone for the workers solidarity in the struggle. We stood and acted together. Together we are strong!"

The campaign is not over and these are gain to build on. It is important however to note that the success of the Kryvyi Rih miners.

Zakhar Popovych of the Ukrainian socialist organisation Left Opposition has been in the forefront of the campaign for the miners and arguing the importance of an independent labour movement in Ukraine. Zakhar declared to those active in solidarity: “Thank you very very much! It is real proof that international workers solidarity really works!” He say that “workers felt now more confidently and it is important not only for Suha Balka but also for all Kryvyi Rih miners. It is also very good example for all workers of Ukraine.”


Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity
"The miners of Kryvbas pay twice" - march in Kryviy Rih
Justice for the Ukrainian miners of Kryviy Rih - Early Day Motion 137
Appeal of the Kryviy Rih Basin miners to the workers of Europe
Protest held in London showing solidarity with Ukrainian miners
Justice for the Ukrainian miners of Kryviy Rih - Welsh Assembly Statement of Opinion