Trade Unions name State as worst employer
The National Forum of Ukrainian Trade Unions has made public its monitoring of labour disputes which can be of little cheer for the public sector.
The monitoring found that last year Ukraine was among the seven countries in the world with the worst wages arrears. Reasons named include failings in legislation and the tax system, as well as infringements of the labour laws. The authors of the report say that the fact that remuneration constitutes a very small component in the value of goods and services, tax demands and the lack of funds in circulation in most enterprises are all contributing to a fall in the size of salaries which are already among the lowest in Europe.
Myroslav Yakibchuk, Head of the National Forum of Ukrainian Trade Unions believes that changes are needed to legislation on trade unions since the present laws effectively make it impossible to defend ones rights through strikes. “If the court decides that the strike was held illegally, then all losses incurred by the employer must be compensated by the employees”.
Mr Yakibchuk is convinced that the problem of unemployment cannot be resolved and the numbers must increase unless a State programme for job creation is adopted. However he notes that the monitoring demonstrated that there is no trade union at present which is not controlled by some political party or other. Infringement of safety regulations and obsolete technology lead to a high level of industrial injury, especially in the coal industry. A new development is that representatives of small and middle-size business are being squeezed out of the market. After the adoption of the Tax Code, the number of small business owners fell by a third in comparison with last year’s figures.
In contrast to Yakivchuk, the Director of the International Democracy Institute, Serhiy Taran believes that the authorities are not so much pushing small and middle size business from the market, as encouraging them to move into the grey zone.
He says that the authorities find it easier to control a middle class emerging in such a manner since a businessman working in the shadow economy is totally dependent on the good will of officialdom and becomes unable to protest against the authorities’ lawlessness. Mr Taran also noted the growing divide between the incomes of a small group of oligarchs and the rest of society, as well as a deepening distrust within society towards politicians and growing political apathy. He expects the authorities to provoke public discussion on language, history and political symbols as issues which create division among Ukrainians, with careful blocking of discussion of issues relating to the economy and the country’s social development.