[Chris Ford of Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity introduces a new initiative]
Presidential and Kyiv City elections are underway, but eyes remain fixed on the eastern regions of Ukraine. A protracted, at times bloody, struggle continues between the so-called ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ and myriad forces of the Ukrainian republic.
From the murder by snipers of protesters on the Maidan the situation has led to further murder in Odessa. The Ukrainian socialist Left-Opposition declared: “The mass killing of people in Odessa on May 2 cannot be justified in any way.”
Despite the success of the popular rebellion which brought down Yanukovych, the oligarchic clans remain dominant in Ukraine’s political life. Big business still has the decisive impact on the politics and economy of Ukraine.
Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs have plundered Ukraine, accumulating vast wealth hoarded in financial centres of the West. The realignment of oligarch politicians into the current Interim Government has worsened the social plight of the working class through austerity agreed in return for loans to bolster their floundering state. It is this capitalist matrix of the oligarchs and rival imperialisms which explains the crisis.
In response, the miners of the largely Russian speaking industrial metropolis of Kryvih Rih, organised in the Independent Mineworkers Union of Ukraine (NPGU), are challenging the social crisis. The miners previously organised their own Maidan in the revolt against Yanukovych. They saw off ultra-nationalists brought in by the Russian oligarchs and, through miners’ defence brigades, maintained peace and unity.
They are set to commence mass strike action against the company EVRAZ, based in London. Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity is mobilising in response to their appeal, which we publish.
Appeal of the Kryviy Rih Basin miners to the workers of Europe
The attention of the world community is currently focused on the confrontation between pro-government and anti-government forces in Ukraine. This confrontation is becoming all the more tenacious and bloody. It is being turned into an inter-ethnic confrontation that is fuelling a hysterical mutual hatred between workers of different nationalities.
Beyond people’s attention is the sharpening social and economic situation, not only in the regions where the fighting is taking place. The rapid devaluation of the hryvnia (Ukrainian currency), the steep rise in prices of consumer goods, transport, utilities, as well as the cutbacks in production in many enterprises – all this has led to a sharp fall in workers’ real wages by 30-50%.
The announcement by the governor of Dnipropetrovsk province of an increase in pay for April of 20% turned into an insulting hand-out to workers of 300-700 hryvnia (£25-58). Miners received only 15% of their wage rate, which often makes up less than half their actual income. As well, the money was paid out as “material support”, which means it will not be included in the calculation of their average monthly wage and therefore in the calculation of their annual leave.
As a result we have no option but to demand an immediate doubling of the real wage in the interests of preserving social peace in this country. The main cause of the destabilised situation in the country is the greed of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers, send all their profits abroad and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine. It is necessary to put pressure on the corporations of the Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, many of whom have their shares placed on the London Stock Exchange.
There is a mounting labour dispute in the enterprises of EVRAZ plc, whose headquarters are in London. Today – May 11 – the miners marched through the streets of Kryvyy Rih to the office of the EVRAZ Sukha Balka plc and showered it with loose change in protest against the fictitious “wage increase” for April. The Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine calls upon the British public to picket the offices of EVRAZ plc and the offices of other Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs’ corporations in London and other cities in Europe.
We also demand the authorities officially recognise the miners’ self-defence and the arming of miners’ brigades. Organised workers and workers’ self-defence can effectively prevent the escalation of violence in Ukraine. In those places where organised workers are controlling the situation mass actions never turn into mass killings. The workers did not allow any violence when they took control of the situation in the city of Krasnodon during the recent general strike there.
We call upon the workers of Britain for solidarity. In particular we will be grateful for any information and humanitarian support, but the biggest need right now is for personal protective clothing for members of the self-defence brigades (body armour and the like) and mobile radio communications equipment.
Long live international workers’ solidarity!
By preserving the peace in Ukraine we will preserve the peace of Europe!
- Oleksandr Bondar, Head of the branch of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine at the EVRAZ Sukha Balka plc
- Yuri Samoilov, Co-ordinator of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine in Kryviy Rih, Head of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine in Kryviy Rih
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