June 10, 2023


Complete News World

multiply affected by the war | class struggle

When Vitaly Dudin and the rest of the Ukrainian left celebrate the International Day of Labor Struggle, it is on special circumstances.

Demonstrations are prohibited, according to Ukrainian martial law. Conferences and seminars are allowed, but the organizer must take into account possible air raids.

The more invitations they have, the higher the stakes.

Under martial law, May 1 is a working day.

But that doesn’t mean that hashtags are less important this year than usual — quite the opposite.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the rights of Ukrainian workers have been systematically undermined by neoliberal war reforms.

neoliberal transformation

On the phone from Kiev, Vitaly Dodin went so far as to say that over the past year, Ukrainian workers have been attacked on two fronts: from Russian forces and from their own authorities.

Dudin, who is the head of the left-wing organization Sutyalny Rukh and works as a pro-union lawyer (unpaid), says that Zelensky’s government has been trying to liberalize the labor law for several years, but it has been stopped by popular pressure. Until the invasion early last year.

– Then things changed dramatically. Dodin says it has become very difficult to stand against the reforms.

It is believed that politicians are exploiting the war to liberalize the law of working life under the guise that such reforms will benefit the crisis-stricken economy.

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war reforms

Fast forward a year. The war is still on, millions of Ukrainians have lost their jobs and many of those who do have work on zero-sum contracts, may have taken deep pay cuts and run the risk of being fired during sick leave and holidays.

Changes to the law since March last year allow, among other things, employers of small and medium-sized companies to suspend collective agreements, increase weekly working hours and fire employees without cause. In addition, the state is given more opportunity to confiscate the property of trade unions.

Both the International Labor Organization and the European Union criticized the reforms. In a document from the Council of Europe, it was stated that the reforms had mostly led to a “deterioration in working conditions”.

Reforms did not improve the situation. Dudin says and continues that employers only use them to save money and maximize profits.

– They transfer all costs of the crisis to their employees.

Changes to the law are supposed to continue while the war continues, but many fear that they will also be extended after the end of the war.

Dodin sees a development where workers’ awareness of their rights is gradually weakening. They feel there is no scope for employers to challenge them, even though many of their rights are still theoretically protected by Ukraine’s constitution and labor law.

– But we are afraid that our institution will try to completely abolish the labor law and replace it with a more liberal one.

Dodin believes that has not really happened because the authorities want to avoid condemnation from international trade unions and EU bodies.

Unions at war

Since the outbreak of the war, political decisions have been taken behind closed doors and there is no room for influence on the part of trade unions. But this does not mean that trade unions became less important during the war.

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Now the trade unions are on the front lines. They work to ensure humanitarian aid and supplies for members fighting in the war and internally displaced persons.

Currently, Dodin says, this task is given the highest priority. He hopes the unions’ efforts now can give them additional leverage to influence political developments in the future.

– He says that people who are in the army and protect our country and are still members can legitimize trade unions, adding that millions of people are still affiliated with trade unions.

In addition, the majority of trade unionists work in sectors of social importance such as railways, health and energy.

It can be said that trade unions are the largest civil organization that helps alleviate the burdens of war by helping ordinary people and contributing to military operations. Thus, they have the full moral right to participate in decision-making.

Space for critical thinking

Besides working to support members directly affected by the war, working to inform and educate workers about their rights and about the struggle, they continue to fight for the protection of workers’ rights when society is rebuilt.

But do people have the energy to think about the future when they are in the midst of war?

Duden isn’t sure.

– Thanks to the brave Armed Forces of Ukraine, people now feel relatively safe, so they have an excess of critical thinking. He says the question of survival is not as acute as it was a year ago.

– But the community is still in shock, so I don’t see much enthusiasm. People are tired of all the crises and shocks of the past year. People will continue to defend the country, but I don’t know if they are ready to talk about the future.

related to the Soviet Union

There are a few days until May 1st when Doden will speak to ClassCampen. On the same day, Sotialny Rukh will hold a seminar with trade union leaders, leftists and researchers.

They will exchange experiences after a year of total war and discuss how to make Ukraine a more democratic and socialist country in the future. Dodin says international cooperation will be important. The same applies to European integration, as many of the new laws contradict EU directives.

But for many Ukrainians, the Day of International Workers’ Struggle has become a rather ordinary day.

Dodin points out that many people in Ukraine strongly associate May 1 with the Soviet Union.

That is why he called on the Europeans who will take to the streets on Monday:

– I believe that if more people in different European countries would bring banners and slogans in support of Ukraine on May 1 trains, then more Ukrainians would change their attitude towards this day. He says it’s about solidarity.

Like many left-wing activists Classcampen has spoken to over the past year, Dodin fears that weakening social rights in Ukraine will create a basis for social unrest, mistrust and instability, at a time when people should stand together against any outsider. the enemy.

Class struggles do not disappear in wartime. Some of them are even growing because of unreasonable neoliberal reforms, the union lawyer concludes.