Ukraine: ITUC solidarity visit

photo: A memorial in Kiev to the victims of Russia's war on Ukraine

An ITUC delegation led by General Secretary Luc Triangle has been in Ukraine to reaffirm the global trade union movement’s support of workers and their unions in the country.

The group included Christy Hoffman (General Secretary UNI-Global Union), Atle Hoie (General Secretary, IndustriALL Global Union) and Paul Nowak (General Secretary TUC-UK).

The visit confirmed that the global union movement supports a free and independent Ukraine, free from Russian aggression

Luc Triangle said: “We are in Ukraine to reaffirm that we all stand in full solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The brutal and illegal invasion by Russia can never be justified, and we condemn this aggression, the violence and the killings in the strongest possible terms.

“Thousands have been killed, many more have been forced to flee, and thousands more live in areas temporarily occupied by the aggressor where violations of international law, including the right to freely choose one’s trade union, are a daily reality.

“In this context, the efforts of the Ukrainian unions to provide vital humanitarian support have been amazing. They stand as pillars of resilience and hope, organising crucial assistance. We stand by their side in their fight for freedom, justice and democracy.

Support for workers in danger

As a show of solidarity for workers risking their lives daily, the delegation visited a power plant severely damaged by a Russian missile strike where they met workers and their union representatives. Luc Triangle commented: “What happened here is a clear example of targeting essential infrastructure and making daily life more difficult. Working people in Ukraine and their unions are making extraordinary efforts.

“They maintain vital services, energy, supplies for cities and citizens. As they work, they are risking their lives as the Russian military continues to attack civilian sites. The power plant is one of hundreds of workplaces where Ukrainian workers make a heroic stand every day.”

These frequent attacks on workplaces increase the need for psycho-social aid to workers and people.

The delegation heard from members of the FPU about how the war is affecting them

To hear what the war means to them and their members, and discuss their concerns about new government labour legislation, the delegation met with delegates from the two ITUC Ukrainian affiliates, the FPU and the KVPU.

ITUC affiliate the KVPU organised a meeting of its members to discuss the effects of the war on working people

Anti-union policies

The ITUC regrets and has voiced strong objections against the Ukrainian government’s exploitation of martial law to impose policies that undermine basic worker and trade union rights. These changes include undermining collective bargaining, fewer protections in the hiring and firing process, and disruption to social dialogue processes.

The delegation met senior politicians to discuss the undermining of workers’ rights during the war

The delegation met with senior politicians at the parliament to discuss these issues, including Oleksandr Kornienko (First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament)) and Yulia Tymoshenko (Former Prime Minister, current leader of the opposition).

Decent work in reconstruction

The group then visited the ILO office in Kyiv and expressed full support for the ILO’s work in Ukraine to ensure that the principles of decent work are central to international efforts to rebuild the country.

The ITUC delegation said: “Workers’ rights must be prioritised. The government should look at the work of the ILO to embed fair labour practices into the foundation of Ukraine’s post-war recovery to establish a resilient, fair and equitable labour market.”

In an exchange with the leaders of the Employers’ Federations of Ukraine, the ITUC delegation emphasised the need for full trade union involvement in the reconstruction process and referred to previous Global Trade Union positions.

The delegation met staff and patients at Ukraine’s biggest children’s hospital

At the end of the mission, the delegation visited Ohmatdyt, Ukraine’s biggest children’s hospital where most of the patients are being treated for the effects of the war. The ITUC delegation paid tribute to the outstanding daily work of the medical staff and emergency workers helping the most vulnerable victims of this unacceptable aggression.

Luc Triangle concluded: “The ITUC will continue to condemn the Russian aggression against a free and independent Ukraine. There is no justification for this war now, in the future or by referring to history.

“The country is faced with more five million internally displaced people, six million refugees that have temporarily left the country, more seven million people living in poverty and nearly 18 million people in need.

“The ITUC stands with the Ukrainian trade unions in their efforts to assist people and workers that are in great need. The ITUC is also with the Ukrainian trade unions as they actively participate to shape a present and a future where workers’ rights are not casualties of conflict but a cornerstone in the journey towards dignity, recovery and stability.”