Ukraine: unions step up action against labour reform

published 25 February 2020 updated 13 October 2023

Trade unions in Ukraine are opposing a reform of the labour law that puts such basic workers’ rights as freedom of association and collective bargaining at grave risk. The dangerous provisions apply to workers and their trade unions in both public and private sectors.

The public service unions in Ukraine are calling for industrial action in opposition to the draft Law on Labour, a new set of rules that undermine collective bargaining and social dialogue for public sector workers. The proposed legislation was prepared behind closed doors, without consultation with unions or employer organisations. The draft text was submitted to the Ukrainian Parliament last December by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, in a process that was not in conformity with national legislation which demands that any such changes only take place after due consultation with the social partners.

Erosion of rights

The new legal texts attack fundamental rights and disregard international standards. According to Ukrainian trade unions, if adopted, the law would:

  • Allow the unilateral termination of employment contracts by employers, who would have complete discretion to dismiss employees without severance pay; enabling discrimination against and intimidation of trade union activists, members, and others.
  • Allow employers to unilaterally change employment contracts and dismiss employees who refuse to accept such changes.
  • Expand the use of short-term and zero-hours contracts, reducing job security and the predictability of working hours.
  • Reduce overtime pay from a 100 per cent premium to a 20 per cent premium, which is not in line with convention No. 1 on Hours of Work (which provided, already in 1919, a premium payment of at least 25 per cent).
  • Abolish some social guarantees and reduce protections for mothers with small children.
  • Limit freedom of association in violation of ILO convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise (ratified by Ukraine in 1956).
  • Limit the right to obtain information for collective bargaining purposes.

International support

Global unions such as Education International and other sectoral organisations and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have joined with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) to denounce the efforts of the Ukrainian government to introduce measures that will erode workers’ rights. They have urged the government to withdraw the text and support the mobilisation of Ukrainian trade unions. In support of those actions, the ITUC and the ETUC will be leading a delegation to Ukraine on 25-27 February.

David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, said: “We stand with Ukrainian trade unions. These proposed changes are an attack on workers’ rights and protections and are unacceptable anywhere. They undermine democracy and governance. They also violate commitments that Ukraine made in the  Association Agreement with the European Union and the Ukraine-Canada Free Trade Agreement.”