SOCIAL DIALOGUE: The main priority is efficient protection of labour rights

Important issues of social dialogue, effective protection of legitimate rights and interests of the working people were discussed during the meeting of Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groisman with the leaders of the nationwide trade unions and associations on 18 October 2016.

Volodymyr Groisman thanked the trade unions for their cooperation in key issues of social and economic development, protecting the rights of working and creating new jobs. In particular, he highlighted the creation of such an important institution of economic processes management as the National Committee on Industrial Revival.

Volodymyr Groisman said that he intended to hold meetings with the MPs regarding the draft law on the State Budget 2017.

Talking about tariffs and subsidies, the Prime Minister said, ‘The Cabinet of Ministers will offer the Ukrainians, who cannot or do not want to use subsidies to compensate introduction of market gas prices, a mechanism of annual instalments for housing and communal services.’ ‘That is we have two mechanisms that can be used on the one hand, subsidies as targeted irrevocable assistance, on the other hand, if this option is not acceptable for some reason, please: consume today and pay within 12 months. This would mean that a household’s budget burden will be alleviated by monthly instalments,’ the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister expressed confidence that both compensatory mechanisms will work. ‘People will see bills and see that compensation is reasonable, and, in fact, the households’ budgets will not be affected by increase in [gas] price to the market level. Volodymyr Groisman stressed that the subsidies system is the targeted social protection mechanism. ‘We cannot subsidise utility companies, water utilities, loss and everything else. Today, in these difficult times, we have to support each Ukrainian household,’ he said.

As for plans and objectives for 2017, the Head of the Government, said, ‘We have to enter 2017 with a quality assessment system of the Ukrainians’ labour.’ The Prime Minister said that the issue of the wage system reform is one of the most important priorities of the Government. ‘I think that the 45-million country in the centre of Europe with such a potential cannot live in poverty as they live today. So, something we were doing was not right,’ Volodymyr Groisman said. The Prime Minister recalled that one of the first decisions of the Government was to increase social standards by 10% from 1 December. Such an increase is being also planned next year. According to him, ‘This is just the beginning.’ However, he said about the need to accelerate the social standards growth. ‘It is very important for us that every hryvnia that could be invested in improving the social standards should be used for that. It is our priority,’ the Head of the Government said.

Grygorii Osovyi, President of the JRB of Trade Unions, President of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, in turn, said, ‘The General Agreement is one of the mechanisms implementing social and economic policies. The trade union side approved the operational plan for implementation of the Agreement, and hopes that the other parties will do it. We will exchange these working documents.

The establishment of the National Committee on Industrial Revival gives us hope for development and creation of new jobs, because the industry is employing almost one-third of workers of the real economy.

What is positive that the current Government modernised the consumer basket that has not been revised for 15 years. Now it is important to apply this social standard in practice.’

Talking about the situation regarding prices and tariffs, Grygorii Osovyi pointed out that it was quite complicated, as social tension was not decreasing. Largely, consumers do not have clarity about their economic assessment by service providers. This is also being fuelled by populist speeches in the media. What is especially sharply criticised is the decision to abolish state regulation on the essential foods. ‘The General Agreement contains a number of provisions on impact on the pricing policy. Moreover, we need to develop urgently appropriate mechanisms in order to influence these processes,’ President of the JRB of Trade Unions said.

In addition, the trade union leader said, that life put a number of challenges that we need to respond together. Among these urgent challenges, he mentioned:

- 40 per cent increase in the cost of living (according to trade union experts in the consumer basket) due to raising prices and tariffs. However, the wage growth under the General Agreement – by 10 percent – does not cover the increase in the cost of living,

- The pay system reform the Government announced could improve welfare, but meantime the trade unions do not have relevant legislative proposals of the Government,

- No effective leverage of wage arrears elimination in both private and public sector was put in place. The Government should finally decide on establishment in the country of a guarantee institution on wage arrears payment in case of insolvency of the company that is a common practice in the EU,

- The sectoral trade unions have no confidence in that December wage increase in the public sector has a necessary resource,

- The trade unions submitted their proposals to the draft State Budget relying on the existing legislation and the need to discuss what was possible to take into account when adopting it.

The FPU Presidium decided to organise protests on 20 October in Kyiv. However, given this meeting, preparation to the action has been suspended so far. ‘Further trade union action depends on specific steps of the Government to address issues raised by the trade unions,’ Grygorii Osovyi said.

The trade union leader made a proposal to close this meeting effectively and issue relevant decisions and protocol orders.

Participants of the meeting also discussed a number of current issues in today’s complex social and economic conditions trade union members, and all workers of the country are concerned.

Among them: ‘On the status of the wage system reform’, ‘On repayment of existing wage arrears and strengthening protection of workers in the event of insolvency of the debtor employer’, ‘ On the problems associated with implementation of the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers Ukraine No. 461 of 24/06/2016 ‘On approval of lists of productions, works, professions, positions and indicators employment in which entitles you to the retirement pension on preferential terms and their solution’, ‘On social aspects of the draft State Budget of Ukraine 2017 and taking into account the provisions of the General Agreement 2016-2017’, etc.

At its last meeting the FPU Presidium decided to organise a nationwide protest on 17 November and picketing of the IMF mission that also would come to Ukraine in November. However, the date is not yet determined.