Education International
Education International

Ukraine: Global unions in solidarity with affected workers

published 14 March 2014 updated 17 March 2014

A delegation from EI visited Kiev from 13-14 March in a show of support for the national teacher unions of Ukraine and the country’s democratic movement. Led by EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, the delegation was composed of teacher union leaders from Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America - including members of EI’s Executive Board.

The delegation was hosted by the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine (STESU), which has two million members including educators, education support staff, and students from all regions.

STESU’s central office building at the Maidan Square, which gave shelter to protesters during the uprising, was demolished by police forces. The union had requested EI’s assistance in relocating its offices and re-establishing communication with its regional chapters and local branches.

“We must help them get back on their feet as the teachers’ organisations of the Ukraine play a vital role in uniting the country and strengthening the democratic movement,” said van Leeuwen.

International solidarity

The delegation also met with one of the smaller teachers’ organisations, the Free Trade Union of Education and Science of Ukraine (VPONU). It advised and counselled both unions on building capacity to reinforce the trade union movement and adherence to the rule of law. Furthermore, meetings were arranged with government representatives and with EU and US officials based in Kiev.

“It is a great honour to be asked by Ukraine’s teacher unions to work with them to strengthen their democratic institutions and support their efforts to build a brighter future for all Ukrainians through education, democracy and the rule of law,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the EI affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, and a member of the delegation that went to Ukraine.

Financial backing

EI also established a solidarity fund to help the Ukrainian education unions. On 11 March, an urgent appeal was sent to all member organisations to help assist STESU relocate its offices and re-establish communication with its regional and local branches.

“EI/ETUCE and member organisations fully support Ukrainian colleagues in their struggle to ensure decent living and working conditions for teachers and quality education for children in this country,” said Martin Rømer, Director of the EI European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE). “Peace, democratic functioning of public institutions and social dialogue are most urgently needed, and the trade union movement can play a vital role in securing a peaceful and acceptable way out of the crisis in Ukraine. We must give hope for a better future to workers and their families who are the first victims of social, economic, and political destabilisation.”

A five-point plan for immediate measures

He went on to mention the position adopted on 11 March by the Pan-European Regional Council, which brings together International Trade Union Confederation’s affiliates from across Europe, including the Ukrainian trade union movement, as well as the members of the European Trade Union Confederation. Its five-point plan for Ukraine, supported by EI/ETUCE, with its emphasis on quality public education, calls for:

• De-escalation of tensions, respect for the Ukrainian Constitution, territorial integrity, and withdrawal of all armed forces

• Free and fair elections to move to a genuine democratic political system, respect for the rights of all, and investigation of all acts of violence, illegal appropriation of public money, and abuse of public office

• Economic assistance packages from the EU and international financial institutions

• Dialogue between Government, employers and trade unions

• Support for efficient and affordable public services, including priority for stability measures