Ukrainian workers suffered a setback on August 6, when President Volodymyr Zelenksy signed a new law allowing zero hour contracts. However, Zelensky did not sign a more dangerous law that would strip almost all workers of their right to collective bargaining and union protections.
Both laws were passed by parliament on July 19. That Zelensky did not sign draft law 5371 — a focus of trade union protest since 2021 — is an indication he might be feeling this pressure. That is why stepping up international union solidarity is so important.
Despite the devastation being wrought by Russia’s invasion, trade unions in Ukraine have continued to speak out against anti-worker laws.
A public letter to Zelensky from the Joint Representative Body of Ukraine's trade unions argued draft law 5371 should be vetoed as it “contains a number of extremely threatening provisions that establish discriminatory norms for workers, significantly weaken the level of protection of workers, narrow the scope of labour rights and social guarantees of workers … [and] undermine the representative and protective function of trade unions”.
They have been supported in their campaign by Poland’s largest trade union peak body, the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions, as well as the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), the International Transport Workers Federation, the European Transport Workers Federation and the American Federation of Teachers.
The BWI noted in its statement: “Among the consequences of the law’s adoption is the massive violation of workers' rights and further exodus of the most qualified and economically-active segment of the Ukrainian population.
“To make matters worse, the situation is complicated by the bloody war started by the Russian aggressor against the Ukrainian people.
“Let’s support the Ukrainian workers’ struggle for labour and union rights. Let’s call on the Ukrainian government to veto Draft law No. 5371.”
Javier Pacheco, the Workers Commissions general secretary in Catalonia, has publicly called on Zelensky to veto the law, while the unions’ international collaboration agency, Peace and Solidarity, is promoting the campaign.
Meanwhile, the European Network in Solidarity with Ukraine continues to garner support for its Change.org petition, with new signatories including union leaders from Australia, Brazil, Greece, Turkey and Venezuela, as well as politicians from Argentina, Ireland, Peru and Switzerland, among others.
Online trade union news service LabourStart has also initiated a campaign in partnership with the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) and Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU), to help supporters send messages to Zelensky.
Similarly, non-profit advocacy group SumOfUs has gathered more than 25,000 signatures for its online petition calling on Zelensky to veto the anti-worker bill.