Ukrainian unions sound warning about UK-backed plan to rebuild Ukraine

Ukraine workers protest anti-union laws
Ukraine workers protest anti-union laws
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Lugano Declaration pushes for modernisation and investment, but critics say a just reconstruction is needed

Article by Thomas Rowley on the Open Democracy site

UK-backed plans to rebuild Ukraine after the war are “absolutely worthless” and will do nothing to protect workers, labour chiefs in the country have warned after the plans were presented this week.

They say reconstruction plans for Ukraine should include a clear role for trade unions and provisions to improve conditions and train workers. Yet labour organisations were not represented at the national and international talks that saw the plans, signed by 40 states, drawn up.

The Lugano Declaration was presented at an international conference in Switzerland on Tuesday.

Signatories include the EU, UK and US. The document advocates a reconstruction, modernisation and investment programme for Ukraine, backed by western governments and banks.

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“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the parliament has suspended parts of workplace protections and collective agreements during war time, as well as made ongoing efforts to pass legislation that would leave employees of small and medium-sized enterprises – which employ up to 70% of Ukraine’s workforce – outside of the scope of current labour legislation.

“The latter draft law, which has been on the Ukrainian parliament’s books since 2020, would also give employers the right to terminate employment contracts at will.

“Passing this shameful document [draft law 5371] would be a blow not only to the labour rights of people, who are already in a difficult position, but a blow to our negotiating positions with the Europeans,” MP Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, head of the Ukrainian parliamentary committee on EU integration, said on Facebook in June.

“Parliamentary sources reported on 7 July that Ukrainian MPs would vote on draft law 5371 in the coming days.

“In recent years, attempts at Ukrainian labour reform – often under the rubric of liberalisation or modernisation – have failed due to public outcry and trade union protest.”