Oleg Vernyk: “All-Ukrainian Strike” as big fake of Euromaidan

27 февраля 2014, 21:45
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Oleg Vernyk: “All-Ukrainian Strike” as big fake of Euromaidan

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 “All-Ukrainian Strike.”

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 the KVPU, 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 committee."

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.

Volynet’s recent 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 "strike."

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.

 Oleg Vernyk,

Сhairman of the All-Ukrainian independent trade union  “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Labor Defence)

http://tradeunion.org.ua

For The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)

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