Ukraine: Zelensky signed Law No. 5,371, more madness and a crime of power

By Oleg Vernyk –  “Zahist Pratsi” Ukrainian Independent Trade Union President

At this time, the Ukrainian and the global public learned that President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the anti-worker and anti-union Law No. 5,371, voted by the Ukrainian Parliament on July 19, 2022.

We already wrote that this bill removed from the Labor Code workers of companies with less than 250 workers. These companies represent more than 80% of the national total. This antipopular law deprived workers of the opportunity to enter into collective agreements with employers, transferring the entire scope of labor regulation to individual employment contracts. While collective labor contracts, in accordance with the current labor legislation of Ukraine, are concluded by trade unions, authorized labor collectives and employers.

The destruction of collective labor agreements for the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian companies is not only blatantly neoliberal and anarchic in relation to wage work, but is also a violation of a series of international conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO). This will also give bosses the impetus to subdivide large companies as much as possible into many smaller ones to also remove them from the Code of Labor Laws and reliable state protection of labor rights. We are well aware that the content of individual employment contracts, in a situation of mass unemployment caused by the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine, will depend solely on the will of the employer. In the current situation, workers will be forced to accept the worst working conditions, even the most draconian and inhumane ones. In addition, employers have been given the right to terminate individual employment contracts at any time and without explanation.

The approved bill has deprived unions of the opportunity to block the dismissal of workers and union activists who fight for workers’ rights in the companies. Now any attempt to protect the labor rights of workers will be immediately sanctioned with the dismissal of activists, while unions are already deprived of the right to protect them.

Article 22 of the Constitution of Ukraine clearly indicates that the amending of existing laws cannot restrict the content and scope of existing rights and freedoms. However, the oligarchic clients of this bill did not care about the requirements of the Constitution and the rights of wage earners.

I want to highlight that Ukrainian and global trade unionism and the left tried to prevent the adoption of this neoliberal and anti-labor law with a united front. The bill was strongly opposed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), and even by the AFL-CIO, which rarely reacts to these kinds of situations in different parts of the world. Our International Socialist League (ISL) has also made efforts to collect protest signatures from political and trade union leaders in many countries around the world. However, Zelensky grossly ignored the opinion of the world community and signed the bill, which was initiated in parliament by his political party, headed by one of its hateful leaders, Galina Tretyakova.

It is clear that our labor struggle will continue. And it is also obvious that, with this step, the neoliberal authorities have dealt a crushing blow, undermining the basic democratic principles of labor legislation, attacking the rights, and social and labor freedoms of Ukrainian workers. In the context of the continuing Russian military aggression, the neoliberal policy of the Ukrainian authorities is complete madness, a crime against the people and the working class.