Trade union statement to EU-Ukraine Summit on 3 February


The European Trade Union Confederation and its affiliates, Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine and Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, fully support Ukraine and its people in the fight for democracy and sovereignty against Russian aggression. That was a year of shock and pain, devastating news and images, but also a year of bravery and consolidation of Ukrainian people and their unions and a year of solidarity, unity and support. From the first day of the war, Ukrainian trade unions joined the national efforts to counter aggression, but also to cope with the crisis provoked by it. The European trade union movement have been providing political and humanitarian support to sisters and brothers in and from Ukraine. Solidarity and mobilisation are key in resisting aggression, saving lifes and helping all those in need. They will be the key in rebuilding Ukraine as democratic, sovereign, and fair country that chooses, European Union and its rule of law, respect for rights, equality and genuine social dialogue.

Ukraine will need unity for national reconstruction built on respect for labour rights and social dialogue as the basis for a new industrial and employment policy and therefore the necessary relaunch of the industrial relations of the country, including a comprehensive revision of labour legislation. But we regret that actions by Ukrainian authorities and employers systematically violate workers and trade union rights that can make the path to the EU more complicated and time-consuming.

Our concerns center on actions and proposals by the government and the Parliament of Ukraine to introduce regressive labour legislation without meaningful consultations with social partners and by that taking undue advantage of the situation of martial law. 

The Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Some Legislative Acts Regarding Simplification of Regulation of Labour Relations in Sphere of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Reduction of Administrative Burden on Business” was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada despite clear messages of its inconsistence with the international and European labour standards. The law discriminates against workers in organisations with less than 250 employees and deprive them of labour protections and allow such organisations to ignore existing collective agreements. Its adoption was contrary to the EU Aquis, including the principles of non-discrimination and social dialogue, but also the obligations under ratified Conventions of the International Labour Organisation.

The government also developed and promoted a draft “Law on labour” despite the clear demand of social partners for comprehensive and codified labour legislation and due process. The recent instruction by the Prime Minister to develop a new labour code could have been welcomed, but the development process so far does not foresee engagement of social partners, while hostile actions by the government and some individuals from the ruling party against trade unions speak on their own.

On 4 November 2022, the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the first reading a draft law introduced by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the actual expropriation of trade union property by the State.    Furthermore, through special investigative commission the Rada initiated arrest of trade union property regardless of the legislative processes.

There is no social dialogue at the national level. Since August last year, not a single meeting of the National Tripartite Socio-Economic Council has been held. Trade union leaders are subject of different investigations, defamation campaigns and intimidation, while trade union offices are visited by state officials, trade union documentation being sized, trade union representatives are summoned to interrogations. That distracts and makes core trade union work difficult if not impossible.

All this happens while not only legislative and normative reforms are being developed, but when the entire country needs all the parties meaningfully participating to tame aggressor, to ensure that economic and social life continues, and fundamental pillars for reconstruction and recovery are properly put in place.

In the situation of war, when all the efforts made by Ukrainian enterprises, workers and population at large to keep the economy ongoing, when trade unions have been vital in providing humanitarian support, including from European brothers and sisters, to all those people in need – in stricken areas and enterprises, temporary shelters, or their workplaces – the actions of state officials undermine national unity, democracy and trust of people.

As EU - Ukraine Summit meets on 3 February in Kyiv, the Government of Ukraine must be called on to immediately comply with the principles of international labour standards, to stop attacks on workers’ and trade union rights and to fully comply with its international obligations, including those under Association and DCFTA agreement. That will be the right thing to do on the way to the EU, and not to sacrifice workers’ rights and to scarify workers’ representatives.

We call the Government to withdraw the draft legislation concerning trade union assets, to stop any trade union assets alienation processes and abuses by investigative powers and to restore social dialogue. The recent labour law amendments must be immediately withdrawn. The Government must meaningfully consult social partners on all labour law reforms and involve trade unions in all programs aimed at Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. That is in the interest of Ukraine and its people and in the interest of European Union and its people.

The EU must make clear to the Ukrainian government that the accession process must be based on adhering to EU fundamental values of social market economy, social dialogue and the role of social partners, as well as ensuring the full respect of trade union rights and social rights.

Attacks against trade unions and social rights must stop!

We demand that the Ukrainian government respect the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions and protect all workers' rights regardless of the size of the company they are working in.

We demand that employers in Ukraine respect the rights of their workers, including fair wages, safe working conditions, and collective bargaining rights.

We call for the European Union to support workers and their trade unions in Ukraine and to promote decent work, based on collective bargaining and respect for workers rights.

We call on the international community to ensure the protection of workers in war zones and to support their rights and welfare.
We call on governments to ensure rights of refugees.