war crimes in Ukraine

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Ukraine’s Miners: Put at Risk and Exploited

While the coal output from Ukraine’s mines brings millions to its owners, the miners and their families find it hard to make ends meet. This is in part due to gross exploitation and violation of labour laws, making the miners’ wages dependent on being in the management’s good books


On1 January 2010 the coal enterprise Krasnodonugol introduced “Regulations on an Integrated System of Remuneration”. Some time later the Barakov Mine Independent Mining Union received a letter from over 100 miners’ wives.   This appeal is especially poignant as candles still burn on the graves of miners killed in the disasters at the Sukhodilska-Eastern Mine in the Luhansk region and the Bazhanov Mine near Makiyivka on 29 July. 

“We, miners’ wives with tears in our eyes read the latest pathos in the newspapers: about et another million tonnes of coal extracted at the Sukhodilska-Eastern Mine, Barakov, Samsonovska Western Mine.  Whose coffers are being filled by our miner husbands? In our miner families articles with such contact arouse only indignation. Mines bringing in millions and the miners themselves on pitiful wages – a paradox! Such wages as those paid miners don’t correspond at all with their real labour, with dangerous work in grueling conditions. Is that no so?

Tell us please how a family of four is to live on two or three thousand [UAH  - where 11.3 UAH = 1 EUR – translator]  a month when the prices at the market rise from day to day, communal services need to be paid and if one of the children is studying as well.

All the everyday and financial problems fall in the first instance on our fragile women’s shoulders: preparing a thermos of food for our husband’s shift, thinking up how to feed him after work, what to give the children for lunch at school and how to stretch the pay out to last from the 22nd to the 7th when they give out a pittance. And then again the headache?  Both payday and the depression for us minders’ wives!

Good on the small business owners and market vendors who are standing up for their rights [by mass protests, particularly on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square in Kyiv, against the new Tax Code – translator], their money, even though they have to stand on the square in Kyiv, insisting, but what about us? 

We’d really like to find out what the trade union leaders are up to at the mines?  Do they really not care about how the miners live? What are trade unions for then, if they’re silent?

Does that mean that once again we miners’ wives need to unite and fight for decent treatment of our husbands?

Miners’ wages

As stated, from the Krasnodonugol Regulations on an Integrated System of Remuneration came into force on 1 January 2010.

The Regulations were agreed with the Krasnodon Territorial Trade Union Organization PRUPU [the Coal Industry Workers Union] and the local branch of the Independent Miners Union for the Krasnodon Region. 

Members of the Barakov Mine Independent Mining Union for Krasnodon and the Krasnodon region did not sign it and nobody suggested that they do so.

The point is that still at the stage of preparing amendments to the Collective Agreement in the commission disagreements emerged. The Barakov Independent Mining Union gave their proposals based on the Branch Accord and on the Law on the Prestige of Miniers’ Labour.

The joint commission was made up of members of trade unions in proportion to their size: 12 people from PRUPU; 2 from the Independent Miners’ Union and 1 from the Barkov Mine Independent Miners’ Union.

Nobody else voted for the Barakov Union;s proposals and the proposals of the Administration were supported by both PRUPU and the Independent Miners’ Union who then signed the above-mentioned Regulations as an appendix to the Collective Agreement. 

This meant that the bosses first began paying by the new system then only had it approved and signed.

All the workers saw how the Collective Agreement was passed. 

At the Barakov Mine, for example, the meeting of the first shift took place on 3 February 2010.  The Mine Director ran the meeting and threatened physical reprisals against those miners who expressed objection, saying that the new system would worsen workers’ position and ran counter to labour legislation.  Only the votes against or abstaining were counted. The Director refused to put to the vote who was for the new system and take them to hurry back to the mine. It’s clear that in the protocol they wrote a higher number of votes for, with those workers who didn’t know about the meeting not having attended.

It worked out that the labour collective happily and amicably voted for this robbery-like system of payment.

According to these Regulations, supposedly passed by the workers themselves (they voted!), the pay for some workers on the coal layers which are treacherous because of sudden explosions of coal and gas, is a mere 2, 340 UAH while according to the Branch Agreement, legislation and the suggestions put forward by the Barakov Independent Miners’ Union the monthly rate should come to 6, 259 UAH!

The tariff rate for pay which is presently paid to underground workers in Krasnodon comes to approximately 40% of the minimum, guaranteed by the State.

Below are the actual rates which Krasnodonugol is paying, followed by the tariff rates they should be paying in accordance with the Branch Agreement and Ukraine’s legislation.

There are a few jobs mentioned at each level

Actual monthly pay                 Tariff rate per month

998 UAH                                  1862 UAH         a fueler, person in charge of the conveyer, etc

1102 UAH                                2056                 person in charge of ventilation plant; electrician, etc

1225 UAH                                2300                 higher category electrician

The underpayment is thus huge. 

This is clearly a system of extreme exploitation of miners. The system is the know-how of oligarchs who were apparently offered it by some organization called the Hay Group. What is staggering is the degree to which it totally breaches Ukrainian legislation which stipulates a tariff system with tariff nets, rates, and set criteria for each. When adopting any payment system observance is mandatory of the norms and safeguards set down in legislation, the General and Branch Agreements.

The Akhmetov –Hay Group system envisages pay on an individual named basis depending on the type and group of activities as defined by the boss. In this situation pay may depend entirely on the individual relations between the officials of the Administration and the workers. Family relations can also be important as well as personal friendship or animosity. This system also forces worker to give bribes to the management who determine the types and groups of activities. There is strong motivation to get into the necessary group where they pay more in accordance with the group and social “behaviour” of the worker.

This is slave labour.

Reported by Dmytro Kalytventsev from the Barakov Mine Independent Miners Union and Mykola Kozyrev from the Public Committee for the Protection of Human Rights

On Thursday 4 August 26 miners were injured in yet another methane explosion, this time at the Krasnokutska Mine. At the time the Emergencies Ministry reported that 5 men were in intensive care while 21had received injuries of moderate severity.  In the evening it reported that one miner had died. 

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