Written by Mick Antoniw*
Sunday, 10 August 2014 19:11
At the invitation of the National Union of Mineworkers a delegation from the Trade Union of Coal Industry of Ukraine (PRUP) – one of the Ukranian miners trade unions – from the Western Donbas visited the UK.
They took part in the Durham Miners Gala and the chairman of the Dnepropetrovsk territorial organization of PRUP Sergey Yunak addressed the Gala. PRUP is affiliated to the Federation of Trade Union of Ukraine. The following interview was conducted with Sergey by Mick Antoniw of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, and member of the National Assembly for Wales.
Editor’s note: The opinions of the trade union leader don’t express entirely the positions of the IWL-FI, but they show the strong feeling of the miners workers regarding the unity of Ukraine and against any foreign intervention. We can see also that a progressive trend of the Ukrainian working class is taking place for a deeper political participation in the ongoing process, as stated by their will to stand trade union candidates for the next parliamentary elections.
Mick Antoniw: What is the PRUP (Ukrainian Miners Union) trades unions view of the current situation in eastern Ukraine?
Sergey: Currently our union organisation doesn’t have a joint opinion. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions are under Russian control and propaganda and they consider that their rights have been suppressed. That is not our view. Our opinion is we believe it is an open war on the side of Russia and that this war is supported by local oligarchs or rich people and friends of Yanukovich’s family.
Mick Antoniw: One of the proposals from the Ukrainian government’s programme of reform is the decentralisation of power. What is the Unions view?
Sergey: That issue had been raised by us five years ago in Kyiv and put to government, that is why this issue is supported widely. We consider that this issue, decentralisation of power will strengthen local authorities.
Mick Antoniw: Has there been enough local level debate on this issue? Local discussions with trades unions etc.
Sergey: That has happened especially in our regions. We share in and participate in discussions about decentralisation and have explained what it means. It is important that it this debate is shared widely.
Mick Antoniw: In some UK papers it is suggested there is a threat to the Russian language…
Sergey: It is real propaganda of Russian. There is no threat to the Russian language in Ukraine. All our documents, files, negotiations are conducted in the Russian language. We perform everything in the Russian language. There is no threat at all.
Mick Antoniw: There appears to be some disunity amongst unions in Ukraine. Will recent events lead to greater solidarity across Ukraine amongst trades unions? Are there prospects of trades’ union candidates standing for the next parliamentary elections and are there prospects for a more united union voice in elections?
Sergey: First of all, we make all attempts to preserve our big society and our country as a great united society. As soon as the foreign countries, particularly Russia, maybe the US and maybe Europe interference into our affairs stops everything will be ok. Our country cannot be divided, cannot be separated that is why we make all efforts to keep our country united. That is why our trades unions make all attempts to keep our country united, West, East and Central Ukraine, for a joined united society. There is no other way for Ukraine other than to be united.
Based on last trades unions conference held in Kyiv a month ago, it was shown that trades unions in all industrial areas from the east, which are strong organisations, and west which are not so strong, and central trades unions have the same desire to be united. Our trades unions are united in this, we have spoken in our conferences in different languages, Russian and Ukrainian, but all trades union participants express the same desire to be united and to support our country. Trades unions will provide their delegates and candidates to local, area and regional and central bodies during elections. We will participate and provide our candidates to all levels of authority. We will do it. Regarding a united political voice.
Much will depend upon there being no interference from outside. That’s why we intend to have a strong political union and organisation which will be ready to unite all forces. Unfortunately this is not yet strong enough in Ukraine. Trades unions are currently not yet ready to accept this political way, to unite all areas properly because they are still divided into different subsidiary unions. But we are ready for the struggle.
Mick Antonin: What is the position of the mining industry in Ukraine with regard to pay and conditions? What are the most important issues affecting the mining industry that government needs to address?
Sergey: The main demands and requirements of the unions are still the same. We will participate in all areas and be represented at local and national level. that’s why we are not going to discuss only one issue such as wages , we are ready to participate in wider discussions and complex issues affecting the totality of living standards , and we will promote different programmes associated with redundancy, wages, welfare, closure of mines. We are ready to participate in discussions with government regarding these problems. For example, we have been negotiating with owners and the ministry of coal mining in Ukraine who adopted the decision to make redundant a lot of work places and reduce the salary of miners and closure of some mines; that is why PRUP started a struggle for our rights and we will participate in discussions with the ministry to stop the initiatives made by the ministry of coal mining.
Mick Antoniw: The separatists present a case that they are being attacked by fascist forces and fighting against fascism, yet some of them appear to be right wing fascist groups themselves. What is the politics of the separatist movement?
Sergey: We are speaking about nationalist guns from Russia?
Mick Antoniw: Yes and who the separatists are and what do they represent?
Sergey: This is a very important issue. We know that Russian propaganda says a lot about fascism in Ukraine. How can we call our soldiers and our young people who widely participate in this war fascists; they are from east, west and central Ukraine. This is only Russian propaganda. We haven’t seen fascists or these bad ideas in our part of Ukraine.
Many of the separatists come from Chechnya, Karabakh and other parts; it is not just Russia they come from. Also, some local detachments of the Ukrainian army were released from the Eastern areas and replaced by other soldiers, they tell us that a lot of guns and detachments from not just Russia, but Chechnya, Karabakh, and different parts of the world, fighting for money, paid by someone. On our side we see no fascism at all. These people are as we say bandits.
Mick Antoniw: What impact has the rocket attack on the civilian aircraft had on people in Ukraine?
Sergey: Ukraine does not use these missiles in this area because we don’t have them there at all. These were missile launch systems provided by Russian and brought to the areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Mick Antoniw: What do people think about what has happened and those responsible. It seems likely was a separatist group that acquired these from Russia , has this affected the way people think?
Sergey: This is a very complicated issue. Firstly, Russia has its own TV channels in the Eastern Donbas and they continue to provide their own propaganda, and they, Russia says Ukraine was involved in that event. Then they say military aircraft were close by. They try to protect and provide obstacles, to save themselves. Russia provides their own propaganda for this purpose.
* member of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign and of the National Assembly for Wales