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Ukraine: national protest defends teachers and quality education

published 24 October 2014 updated 27 October 2014

With a united voice, trade unions across various sectors are condemning new regulations that may lead to decreasing teacher salaries, job cuts throughout education, and school closures across Ukraine.

Previously guaranteed rights and compensations for teachers have been abolished by the government, which is why Education International’s (EI) affiliate, the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine (STESU), has highlighted that the introduction of new rules to determine salariescould also lead to widespread salary cuts in the public sector. In addition, the access and quality of education in rural areas could be negatively impacted.

Massive demonstration

On 15 Oct, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, roughly 5,000 Ukrainian trade unionists from different sectors, including 850 STESU members representing education, rallied and picketed in front of the national Cabinet of Ministers. The protest was organised by the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, under the slogan “For decent work - for decent life”.

Participants urged the government to fight Ukraine’s shadow economy and tax evasion, eliminate wage discrimination in the public sector, restore the State Labour Inspection’s right to freely access workplaces in order to guarantee every worker’s labour rights and safety, and ensure the gradual implementation of European social standards when proceeding with economic reforms.

Cuts in allowances

The STESU also demanded that a ‘prestige’ allowance for teachers be fully reinstated. This allowance, representing 20 percent of the basic salary, was introduced in 2010 and paid to all education workers to acknowledge the high value of their work, and to make the profession more attractive to young people. In April, the Government did a U-turn, nominating “up to” 20 percent of basic salary as the allowance, to be determined by local education authorities within available funds. Many cities and districts in Ukraine have already set this allowance at 10.5 percent and even one percent of basic salary, leading to losses of 200-500 Ukrainian hryvnia (€12-30) per month for teachers.

Respect for trade union rights

The participants’ main demands to the Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers were in relation to the pressure on workers’ social, labour, and trade union rights and interests.

Trade unions are very concerned by new government attempts to restrict workers’ rights and cannot agree to the Government's anti-social legislative proposals. They strongly oppose, among others, job cuts, frozen wages and pensions, fiscal austerity at the expense of workers, retirees and their families, the destruction of the efficient self-governing social and health insurance system, and the lack of social responsibility by the Government while taking socially important decisions.

Social dialogue must be restored

The trade unions further urged the Government to immediately resume negotiations with them and social partners to determine practical tasks, deadlines, indicators and mechanisms to reach the main goal of the reforms, i.e. achieving European standards of living, first of all in employment, salaries, labour safety, taxation, and social development.

“This new legislation has been prepared by the Government while bypassing social dialogue,” said STESU President Georgiy Trukhanov. “The rally was a warning action. Trade unions demand that the Government respect national legislation and ILO conventions and engage in true social dialogue with them.”

EI: Labour norms must be respected

EI supports its Ukrainian colleagues in their struggle to ensure quality education for all in this country. “We reiterate that quality education cannot be reached without respect for national and international social and labour norms, social dialogue, and decent living and working conditions for teachers,” said Martin Rømer, Director of EI’s European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education.