Ukraine: Trade unions strongly oppose new law that undermines labour rights, collective bargaining, and democracy
A new law deprives as many as 70% of Ukrainian workers of labour protections, including their collective bargaining rights. Trade unions in Ukraine, including Education International member organisation, the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine, are dismayed at this push to undermine the rights of workers in Ukraine and are mobilising to fight the new law in court and at the international level.
David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, stated: “We fully support Ukraine’s fight for freedom and democracy. Respecting workers’ rights and engaging in meaningful social dialogue are absolutely vital to a healthy and thriving democracy. Working alongside and not against unions is essential to Ukraine’s path to democracy, to the European Union, and to the bright future all Ukrainians deserve.”
Ruling party moves to restrict workers’ rights
Adopted on July 17 and entering into force on August 19, Law 2434-IX (former Bill 5371) affects workers in companies and organisations with fewer than 250 employees. According to expert estimates, the new law impacts around 70% of workers in the country.
Under the new law, the main instrument regulating labour relations between employer and employees in small and medium-size companies will be individual contracts. In fact, collective agreements negotiated by unions will no longer apply and unions have also lost the legal authority to veto workplace dismissals. This change opens the door to arbitrary dismissals and will create fear to engage in trade union or other independent activities.
The first attempt to introduce the law dates back to 2021. It received negative expert opinions, including from the International Labour Organization, and was heavily criticized by trade unions confederations and all major stakeholders.
For the moment, the law only applies as long as martial law is in place. This stipulation was only added at the last minute, in response to pressure from unions in the country.
The law is part of a broader agenda of deregulation and stripping back of workers’ rights. In July, Parliament passed a law that allows employers to stop paying those who have been called to fight and another piece of legislation that legalises zero-hour contracts. Trade unions warn that many other pieces of legislation curtailing workers’ rights are being pushed through Parliament. All are vigorously opposed by the trade union movement in Ukraine.
Trade unions mobilise
While martial law prevented unions from calling strikes and protests, the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine is launching a campaign to challenge Law no. 2434-IX in the Constitutional Court of Ukraine and will appeal to the International Labour Organization and other European and international bodies.
“The Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine supports the position of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine on the anti-labour Law no. 2434-IX. The trade union is categorically against this law as it introduces extreme forms of liberalisation of labour relations and discrimination by significantly restricting labour rights and guarantees for workers. Law no. 2434-IX discriminates against employees of small and medium enterprises and deprives them of one of their fundamental rights - the right to labour protection and collective bargaining. The trade union draws attention to the fact that this document grossly violates the Constitution of Ukraine, international acts ratified by Ukraine, including the EU Agreements and ILO Conventions”, stated Georgiy Trukhanov, President of the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine, Education International member organisation in the country.
Education International and its European structure - the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) - stand with the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine and all trade unions in the country fighting to protect and promote workers’ rights.