Ukraine: Independent trade union of the PJSC "Sukha Balka" is facing pressure in the fight for labor rights

Serhiy Barabashuk, Head of the primary trade union organization at the PJSC "Sukha Balka" (part of NPGU, the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine) reports pressure on union members and violations of labor rights at the enterprise. In particular, private security service of the enterprise conducted searches of workers. While doing so, they violated a number of legal norms, e.g., searches of women were performed by male security guards. In addition, Serhiy Barabashuk informed Mykhailo Volynets, Chairperson of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, about the pressure on him and the threats he received.

In May 2017, the Primary trade union of NPGU at the Public Joint Stock Company ‘Evraz Sukha Balka’ demanded to increase worker’s salaries to $ 1,000. Miners and members of the independent trade union held protests, including underground protest. After that, director general of PJSC ‘Sukha Balka’ and the trade union committees signed a joint resolution, increasing the salaries to 20%. After some time, ownership of the enterprise was transferred to ERKLEMOND INVESTMENTS LTD Company, belonging to Oleksandr Yaroslavsky’s DCH Group. However, part of the management still works in the company.

Serhiy Barabashuk and members of the independent trade union have been facing psychological and even physical pressure. The reason for this discrimination against company members who belong to the primary trade union organization of NPGU may be their active struggle for justice. In particular, they demand safe working conditions, fair wages, and fulfillment of the employer’s promises to employer’s obligation to conduct measures for improvement miners’ health.

Serhiy Barabashuk stated that there were humiliating searches in the mines of the PJSC ‘Sukha Balka’. Miners were forced to undress and remove their shoes. Such a "preventive measure" was allegedly used to prevent theft and was applied mainly towards members of the NPGU.

According to the leader of the independent trade union, people were questioned by officers of the economic security service in a separate room. As the members of the NPGU told him, they were asked about the activities of Serhyi Barabashuk, including his relocations during working and non-working hours.

Further, Serhyi Barabashuk said that NPGU members can be subject to unwarranted suspension from work and transferred to a different department. The leader and his colleagues are experiencing psychological discomfort because they are under constant surveillance of the security services of the enterprise and managers at all levels.

Members of different unions who perform the same work receive different payments. For example, a member of the NPGU is usually paid less than a non-NPGU affiliated unionists. Workers of ‘Yubileynaya’ mine applied to Serhyi Barabashuk, reporting multiple cases of discrimination.

"Members of NPGU told me that their benefits and brigadier surcharges were revoked without any apparent reasons. They were not prohibited from work within their departments, and transferred to another area where they were forced to perform other duties outside of their domain of competence’- said Serhyi Barabashuk.

Workers of the site appealed to the General Director of the PJSC ‘Sukha Balka’ Vitaly Bash and demanded to take measures to eliminate these violations. A few days after the miners were questioned, the frightened workers began to withdraw their signatures on a petition to the Director.

"Searches on the enterprise can be part of the policy of strict pressure on the members of the NPGU, lasting for several months. One of the reasons for the persecution is that members of the NPGU are resisting corrupt schemes operating in the enterprise", - said Serhyi Barabashuk.

According to the trade union leader, video surveillance was illegally installed at the enterprise. Additionally, employees had problems approving sick leaves and were deliberately misinformed about their work schedules – as a result, their absences were recorded.

A few months ago an illegal surveillance of Serhyi Barabushuk was established. The trade union leader is constantly credited with nonexistent violations. Slanderous information about him and the activities of the trade union were disseminated in social networks and on local websites. "If they act against us with such dirty means, they are afraid," says Serhiy Barabashuk.

Head of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine Mykhailo Volynets issued the following statement:
‘Serhyi Barabashuk is one of the best young leaders of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine. He is an honest person with a strong sense of justice. He appealed to me about the pressure on him, as well as the threats. Sergei also believes that there is a threat to his life. But as brave trade union leader, he continues to struggle. The Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine is doing everything possible to protect its leaders and members. Also, we call on all trade unionists for solidarity with Serhiy and his trade union brothers and sisters’.