Union flags at protest in Kiev earlier this week. Photo KVPU
Unions bear the brunt of violence in Ukraine
You will have seen the terrible pictures coming out of Ukraine: violent repression of popular protesters in the capital Kiev, the savage clearing of public places, a burning capital. Yesterday, the headquarters of our sister organisation, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU), was torched, with 18 people reported to have been burnt to death. The union headquarters was used as a centre for opposition activity, and unions have blamed the government for the fire and the deaths (the government claims the opposition may have destroyed the building itself, to hide incriminating evidence!)
As well as providing a centre for the opposition demonstrators, the unions have been at the forefront of opposing the current government‘s policies, and its tilt towards alliance with the Russian Federation. They also condemned the restrictions on free speech announced last month, backed by the ITUC. Yesterday KVPU leader Mikhailo Volynets said before his headquarters was burned:
“The KVPU is deeply concerned with the critical situation which may further result in chaos and blood. Three months of protests against the current government have resulted in nothing but mass bloodshed and deaths. The government and the President don’t show any reaction and don’t take into notice the demands of the protesting people in entire Ukraine.
“The KVPU condemns the evil actions of the government and special police forces and calls upon the international community to immediately impose sanctions for the high officials who are involved into the bloodshed as well as consider the possibility of providing humanitarian assistance to those who defend democracy and human rights values.”
It was the threat of just such smart sanctions that led to the latest offer of talks from the current Government.
a clear case of putting ideology ahead of people’s needs. In December, the European Trade Union Confederation expressed concern about both the violent repression of protest, and also the ‘failed austerity policies’ of the EU and IMF. IMF requirements included a wage freeze for public employees and large increases in home utility costs. Mikhailo Volynets said:
“We strongly believe that closer ties to the EU will benefit our members. Unfortunately, the IMF demanded economic reforms that would hurt average families in Ukraine, and undercut worker and human rights.”
We send our solidarity to our sister confederation, and our hopes for a peaceful solution.