A real All-Ukrainian Strike would require serious preparation. And without the help of workers themselves and independent unions, it will be altogether impossible.
On February 13, 2014, the so-called “All-Ukrainian Strike,” so long
promised by the leading politicians from the Opposition, took place. During the entire day prominent Ukrainian
media channels were competing to cover the successes of this “strike.” Reports about the advances of the strikers in
eastern Ukraine - such as the strike of “120 trolleybus drivers in Lugansk,”
that was reproduced by many newspapers and internet-publications - turned out
to be complete fabrications. Meanwhile,
the news from the western Ukraine, where calls for the “All-Ukrainian Strike”
that opposition politicians were vying for were completely ignored, seemed more
hopeful. Hundreds of enterprises, and more than ten thousand workers, declared
their support for the strike in western Ukraine. However, when, around lunch hour of that very
day, the real character of this “strike” was revealed, it was time to cry
rather than celebrate.
As it turned out, the
“All-Ukrainian Strike,” initiated by the so-called “All-Ukrainian Strike Committee”
on February, 13, really happened in a very different manner. Ordered
by the directors of the enterprises, workers were forced to abandon their
lunches and to gather for one hour in front of the main entrances to their
factories, to express their hearty support of the opposition leaders. A clip about this “lunch strike” in a linen
factory in Rivne was on constant rotation on T.V. Channel 5, which belongs to
the oligarch Petro Poroshenko. Its
participants later openly admitted that their “strike” was ordered by the
factory’s director. And this was the
scenario for all of the enterprises which were announced as having joined the
Ukraine is probably
the only country in the world where strikes are not held through the initiative
of the workers themselves, but are ordered by their bosses, to occur in an
orderly fashion during the lunch hour, so that no disruption of their
business-operations will take place.
This would be funny, had were not so sad!
However, let’s try to understand exactly what
happened. Who is behind this performance
camouflaged as a nationwide strike? To do this, let’s look back to the very
recent past. On January, 21, a press-conference was held for Sergey Kaplin, deputy of Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's
parliament) from the political party “Udar,” and Mikhail Volynets, KVPU President (The Confederation of
Free Trade Unions of Ukraine), ex-deputy of
Verkhovna Rada from the party
"Fatherland." It was then that the establishment of the All-Ukrainian Strike Committee was
announced. Already, then, media and trade unions were concerned about the fact
that besides the representatives of opposition parties, only one affiliated
trade union organization (KVPU) was given membership in the Committee. None of the Ukrainian independent trade
union associations, except theKVPU, were admitted into the
“all-Ukrainian Strike Committee.” Why?
Established in the
mid-90s, The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU), headed
by its unchallenged leader Mikhail Volynets, has been desperate to maintain its
monopoly on the independent trade union movement in Ukraine for many
years. Volynets has been successful in
arranging the situation in the trade union movement so that the KVPU is
recognized as the only independent trade union in Ukraine by a powerful pro-government
bureaucratic and post-Soviet Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) as
well as by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
And despite the fact
that new trade union associations and trade unions have recently sprung up like
mushrooms in Ukraine (the all-Ukrainian Alliance of Trade Unions (VAP),
Democratic Trade Unions of Ukraine (DPU), all-Ukrainian Independent Trade Union
“Zakhyst Pratsi” (Labor Defense) and others) – they still have not restricted the monopoly of the KVPU. Using his
traditional proximity to the top of the parliamentary opposition, Mikhail
Volynets did everything possible to prevent the leaders of the struggling
independent movement from participating in the "All-Ukrainian Strike
At the same time, the
KVPU has long ago lost all human and organizational resources, and is incapable
of organizing any "strike" by its own strength. For over 20 years, the American labor and trade union, the AFL-CIO, has
provided financial and organizational support to the KVPU. But on November,
2013, when Evromaidan started in Ukraine, Mikhail Volynets was completely
unable to provide support for the trade union movement of Evromaidan, and it
remains something of a mystery how the huge amounts of money from American trade
unions were spent.
behavior has been in general rather strange. On November 26, 2013, he made an announcement to the Ukrainian media
about going on a hunger strike in protest against the refusal of Ukrainian
President, Viktor Yanukovych, to sign the Vilnius agreements. He intended to
maintain his hunger strike until these agreements were signed. However, he
ended the hunger strike without informing the media on the evening of the very
same day. Meanwhile, the leaders of the political opposition demanded that
Mikhail Volynets bring the miners to Kiev - no miners arrived. Instead, Volynets had the office workers of
his KVPU put on the miners' helmets and simulate "miners from Donetsk and
Luhansk" at Maidan. However, the most impressive and outrageous of his
actions was the public announcement that Mr. Mikhail Volynets made at a press
conference in Kiev on December, 2013. In
it he declared that all markets in Kiev had gone on strike. It should be noted
that the press conference was held on Monday, which is the cleaning day, during
which markets in Ukraine are normally closed.
Naturally, on Tuesday, the following day, all markets were open and
operating to their full capacity. And Mikhail Volynets’s profanation became
known throughout Ukraine again.
It is absolutely
clear why Mikhail Volynets (KVPU) had no intention to conduct an all-Ukrainian
Strike, but only its simulation. However, hope remained that the political opposition would be
interested in opening a dialogue with the true independent trade union movement
in Ukraine and engaging in the preparation of a real (!) all-Ukrainian strike.
But, that hope has gone out very quickly. The political party of Vitaly
Klychko, “Udar,” which took responsibility for organizing the strike of February 13, 2014, decided to stake its bets
not on the workers and ground-up initiatives, but on the administrators and
management of the factories as well as its regional party activists. Among the members of “Udar” are many large
enterprises and business directors of Ukraine.
They became the main supporters of the organization of this fake
What conclusions can
and should we make after the failure of February, 13? A real All-Ukrainian
Strike would require serious preparation. And
without the help of workers themselves and independent unions, it will be
altogether impossible. Another
imitation of an All-Ukrainian strike, scheduled by Mikhail Volynets for
February 25, 2014, will only discredit this deeply righteous idea. The mass deception of Ukrainian citizens,
perpetrated by the media, will only worsen the situation.
It is important to
point out that the current legislative regulation of labor actions such as a
"strike" requires a most radical transformation. According to the
current law "On the procedure of settling collective labor disputes
(conflicts),” dated 1998, conducting any, even a local strike, is highly
problematic from the legal standpoint. Preparing the legislature to modernize
strike regulations would be a worthwile task for the parties of the opposition.
of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Labor Defence)
For The Independent
Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)
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