In Digest, Ukraine

New Cold, Nov 7, 2015

Provisions prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities were rejected, a key EU demand for entry into its visa-free travel zone. President Poroshenko’s appeal to accept ammendments to this effect fell on deaf ears

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, pictured on Oct 8, 2015

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, pictured on Oct 8, 2015

Ukrainian MPs voted overwhelmingly on November 5 in favour of a new labour code law for Ukraine. This was the first vote on a draft bill; a final vote is required.

258 Rada members voted in favour. A minimum of 226 in favour was required.

Trade unions in Ukraine and internationally have denounced the proposed changes to the labour code. Ukrainian unions have called it a ‘slave labour code’.

The draft code greatly increases the power of employers to fire workers, discriminate against women workers and reduce compensation to workers when companies go bankrupt or change owners. The code will expand the use of “temporary” employment and weaken the rights of workers on the job. The probation perio do new employees is extended from three months to six. The maximum hours of the non-overtime work week are extended from 40 to 48 hours.

Workers can be pressured to work more if the employer would appear that the official working time is used inefficiently. Companies that employ less than 50 workers can impose temporary layoffs without providing any compensation, for two months, up from one month

Some months ago, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) expressed alarm over the draft law, saying that if adopted, it would “introduce changes to the existing legislation on trade unions and their activities inconsistent with the relevant international labour standards and the legal obligations of Ukraine”. (See text of letter below.) The IndustriALL Global Union has also expressed deep concern.

Employers in Ukraine have sought for years to weaken the labour code and power of unions. That effort predates even the protest movement on Maidan Square. Here, for example, is a March 2012 statement by the Communist Party of Ukraine opposing an attempt at the time by the government then led by Victor Yanukovych to degrade certain conditions of the labour code. International financial institutions have also long lobbied that workers rights in Ukraine be diminished.

Here are several other background articles on the New Cold website explaining the draft code:

Conflict over sexual orientation discrimination clause

The most immediately controversial issue in the draft bill is protection of workers from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. Rada deputies voted down an amendment that would provide such protection. One reason why that’s especially big news in Ukraine is because provisions for protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation is a key obligation that Ukraine must assume by this month in order to be gain accession to the ‘Schengen’ visa-free travel zone in Europe. The AFP news agency devotes an entire article to this subject on November 5.

President Poroshenko gave a nationally televised address on Nov 4 appealing for support to an anti-discrimination amendment to the proposed labour code. His appeal fell on deaf ears in the Rada. Only 117 deputies voted for the amendment.

Other amendments rejected by Rada lawmakers are those protecting from discrimination on racial, political and religious grounds, marital or property status, and whether persons had ever participated in strikes or contracted AIDS.

ITUC calls on Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to postpone any discussions about bill #2983

Dear Mr Chairman,

Re Draft Law No. 2983 “On State Registration of Legal Entities and Individuals – Entrepreneurs and Community Groups

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 176 million workers in 162 countries and territories and has 328 national affiliates, is very concerned about draft law No. 2983 “On State Registration of Legal Entities and Individuals – Entrepreneurs and Community Groups”. This draft law was put on the agenda of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and was considered already at a first hearing on 14 July this year. This law, if adopted, would introduce changes to the existing legislation on trade unions and their activities inconsistent with the relevant international labour standards and the legal obligations of Ukraine. It is difficult to see any reason why this reform is being undertaken, in particular in such a hasty and non-participative manner.

The ITUC affiliated organisations – the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) – as well as the joint national body of trade unions of Ukraine, strongly protest such draft legislation, as the adoption of the proposed text would weaken the autonomy of trade unions and would deprive them from protection from external interference, including by the public authorities. In particular, it would install a system of authorisation of trade union activities by the means of state registration instead of the notification procedure existing today. That is a clear violation of Article 2 of ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise No 87, which defines workers’ right “to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation”. There are other problematic areas in the draft law, including the requirement to provide various and excessive information about the union founders.

We urge you to postpone any discussions about this draft law until a thorough analysis is undertaken to determine whether the provisions of the law are consistent with the international obligations of Ukraine by the competent national authorities and the International Labour Organization. The ITUC and its national affiliates have already requested the ILO to provide its technical assessment of the law. Previously, in various cases, the ILO supervisory bodies havealready denounced the similar trade union registration procedures as a violation of the ILO Convention 87.

The ITUC will continue supporting Ukrainian workers and their unions in the difficult and turbulent situation Ukraine has been experiencing and will use all means available to make sure trade union rights, and in particular freedom of association are fully respected in Ukraine, in law and in practice.

Yours sincerely,
Sharan Burrow
General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation


EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

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