Over ten thousand trade union members, most of them public sector workers, along with youth groups and students, packed the streets of Kiev to rally against government cuts to social programmes.
Planned “package of happiness” damaging for workers
In response to the government’s proposed state budget and sets of laws, aptly named by workers the “package of happiness,” which will in fact significantly limit workers’ constitutional rights and guarantees, the country’s trade unions protested in front of Ukraine’s national parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on 23 Dec., as the government presented its plan.
The delegation of an Education International’s (EI) affiliate, the Syndicat des travailleurs de l’Education et de la Science d’Ukraine(STESU), mobilised more than 6,000 teachers from many regions to help halt the measures’ adoption. Students of Kiev universities also joined in the protest action to defend their right to quality education, scholarships and the necessary resources to carry out research.
No cost reduction at workers’ expense
Trade union members expressed their definite “No” to the government’s policy of reducing costs and seeking to solve all economic problems at the workers’ expense.
“The adoption and implementation of the planned measures will destroy the education, lead to the closure of many schools, make teachers’ work unattractive, and limit the possibilities to receive quality education,” warned STESU President Georgii Trukhanov.
Need for social dialogue
They also urged the government to quickly engage in social dialogue with partners - trade unions and employers’ organisations - in order to jointly analyse available resources and find alternative sources of resources to meet the budget. They suggested the governmental regularisation of the employment of more than four million workers, representing UAH 200 billion (roughly 10,6 billion euros) in “shadow” wages and that could generate additional revenues of UAH 100 billion (roughly 5,3 billion euros) to budget, pension and social funds.