On 28 December 2019 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine submitted to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) a draft labour law and two back-up laws.
The proposed labour law includes 99 articles and contains provisions to allow employees to be dismissed without cause and with short notice, enables short-term individual labour contracts, including zero-hours contracts, and long, poorly compensated working hours. The draft law gives employers the right to set wage tariffs at 50 percent of the minimum wage. It also weakens social protection guarantees, including maternity protection, and limits responsibility of labour inspections.
With the adoption of this law, the current Labour Code and trade union law will be terminated. In case this law will not pass, two back-up laws were prepared to provide amendments to the current legislation to secure labour reform. Proposed amendments to the trade union law include limitations on the number of trade unions at the company level and restrictions on trade union organizing; limit CBAs to national and company levels; exclude guarantees for trade unions at the company level; eliminate government obligations to consider trade union positions when social-economic and labour laws are developed; and finally, consider trade union property to be state property.
The government developed the proposed legislation without any consultations with trade unions and treated the text as a secret document which was hidden from the trade unions and the public. Moreover, the government did not seek the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the process of developing the new labour law. Instead, it provided assurances that it would conform with ILO Conventions.
The proposed laws violate international obligations of Ukraine to combat poverty and protect human rights of the Ukrainian people for decent lives and decent work, including fundamental ILO Conventions 87 on freedom of association and protection of the rights to organize and 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining, and the ILO Convention 131 on minimum wage fixing, European Association Agreement and other international agreements. They are also not respecting the labour provisions of the free trade agreement with Canada.
The national trade union centres organized public protest actions and called on the government to hold serious and good faith consultations with trade unions. The international labour movement including BWI support the actions of the Ukrainian trade unions.
The BWI is alarmed that the Ukrainian government deliberately ignores street actions and trade union calls for open dialogue. There are serious faults in the process and in the substance of the laws. Laws of such importance to workers and their trade unions should never be developed in secret. Open and transparent processes are the essence of democracy.
The substance of the draft laws should be revised in line with international labour standards, especially those which have been ratified by Ukraine. Any changes in the labour laws should expand labour rights, not limit them. During recent years, the Ukrainian people faced many challenges. Attacks on worker rights risk to intensify excising social tension.
BWI urges the Ukrainian government to:
- withdraw the proposed laws;
- immediately open dialogue with the social partners
- request the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the preparation of labour laws in line with the international standards