Ukraine: Zelensky´s Party Attacks Workers and Labor Rights

By Oleg Vernyk – President of the “Zahist Pratsi” Independent Labor Union

Once again, the ruling neoliberal party of the president, “Servant of the People”, began to attack the labor rights of Ukrainian citizens. While workers defend Ukraine’s independence from Russian armed aggression, President Zelensky’s faction in parliament stubbornly attempts to deprive workers of their labor rights and social norms.

At the forefront of this anti-democratic attack is once again Galina Tretyakova, chairwoman of the Committee for Social Policy and Veterans (“Servant of the People” faction). This is the same Galina Tretyakova who publicly stated that poor Ukrainian families in need of state social assistance give birth to “low-quality” children. She also stated that she is impressed by Singapore’s experience with forced sterilization of mothers who are unable to raise their children without state support.

Considering this background of sad analogies with Hitler’s “eugenics” pseudoscience, the attack by the “Servant of the People” presidential party against the labor and trade union rights of Ukrainian citizens seems entirely expected. For the past 15 years, the successive bourgeois authorities of Ukraine have been trying to “modernize” Ukraine’s labor legislation and, above all, to abolish the norms of the Labor Code that has been in force since 1971. Of course, the Labor Code of 1971 has already been updated many times and, step by step, has lost certain functions of protecting the labor rights of workers. However, at the moment, it remains our bulwark in the struggle against the liberalization of labor relations in Ukraine exclusively in favor of the bosses.

The greatest cynicism of the situation is due to the fact that a new attack on workers’ rights has been launched in a difficult situation of war and rejection of the Russian military aggression. Martial law has been introduced in the country, workers and unions cannot, by law, organize protest marches in this situation, that is, we do not have opportunities for mass protest mobilization. The moment for this attack has been perfectly chosen from the point of view of the realization of the appetites of the bourgeoisie.

Last year, the Ukrainian labor and trade union movement succeeded in rejecting a series of anti-worker bills by Galina Tretyakova, who was crazy in her hatred of ordinary people. Among them is the infamous Bill No. 2,681. However, by creating a new bill, No. 5,371, Tretyakova has again attacked the rights of workers. The new bill received a long and cynical title: “On amending some legislative acts on simplifying the regulation of labor relations in the sphere of small and medium-sized enterprises and reducing the administrative burden on entrepreneurship.” Such a long and misleading title of the bill, according to its authors, should convincingly hide its predatory meaning. This bill was already voted by the Ukrainian parliament in its first reading on May 12, 2022, and now the authorities have given themselves the task of adopting it definitively and as soon as possible. Why does the government want to pass this law right now? What are its main positions?

The main objective of this law is to remove companies with less than 250 employees from the Labor Code. Today, the number of employees in such companies is already more than 73% of all employees. In addition, there is a simple legal mechanism by which employers, in case this law is passed, can divide individual larger companies into several smaller ones and thus also remove them from the Labor Code.

In such companies, instead of the Labor Code, a “contractual nature of labor relations” will be established, where all labor rights norms will be established in the labor contracts themselves, which will be drawn up for the workers by the employers themselves. That is, a situation will be introduced in Ukraine of full and total power and legalized anarchy by the employers over the workers. In a situation of total unemployment in Ukraine, aggravated by the severe Russian aggression, there are now 10-11 applicants per job. Since the beginning of the war, some 5 million jobs have already been eliminated in the country. It is clear that poor and hungry people will be forced to accept any, even the most draconian, conditions of labor relations, which the bosses themselves will establish in their employment contracts.

In addition, according to bill No. 5,371, the Ukrainian trade unions lose the possibility of blocking the dismissals of their members. A number of new grounds for dismissal of employees are being introduced. Among them is the blatant “dismissal for the sole unreasonable will of the employer.” That is, now the employer can, at any time and only at his request, dismiss any employee and the unions will no longer have any opportunity to defend the interests of the employed workforce. There are a number of innovations in this bill that significantly worsen and reduce certain aspects of the labor rights of Ukrainians.

All of this happens in a situation in which the Ukrainian authorities publicly declare their desire to join the European Union, under whose labor legislation, according to Article 30 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights “Every employee has the right to be protected against unfair dismissal…” The opposite of Bill No. 5,371, which gives the employer the right to freely fire any worker at any time. In addition, this bill violates a number of conventions of the International Labor Organization and was seriously criticized by international trade union associations.

However, practically nothing can stop the bestial appetites of capital in its eagerness to destroy workers’ and union rights. Only working class and trade union resistance, only international solidarity of all international workers, workers and trade union organizations are capable of stopping this complete madness that the Ukrainian authorities are committing at this moment.