Between the 18th and 20th of January 2023, a delegation from the ITF and ETF visited Ukraine to meet workers in the railway and maritime sectors. The solidarity fund set up by the ITF in March 2022 made it possible to provide Ukrainian transport workers with a wide range of necessities, including folding beds, mattresses, blankets, generators, solar panels and drinking water. ITF-affiliated unions in Ukraine have also been central to organising the evacuation of transport workers’ families to the west for their safety and protection.
There are almost 400,000 members of ITF-affiliated unions in Ukraine, more than half of which are railway workers. The situation for these workers remains dire, and over the course of the war: 319 railway workers and 200 children of railway workers have been killed, and more than 70 injured; 9,000 railway workers have been mobilised into the army, and a further 10,000 internally displaced; and 123 workers have had their homes destroyed. Thousands of railway workers’ children are still in urgent need of rehoming.
The unions, including the Trade Union of Railwaymen and Transport Construction Workers of Ukraine (TURWTCU) continue to represent their members despite the desperate conditions, as well as assisting the needs of the Ukrainian and territorial defence forces, and helping trade unionists and their families. TURWTCU represents 97 percent of Ukrainian railway workers.
However, emergency wartime legislation adopted by the Ukrainian government is allowing employers to infringe on workers’ fundamental labour rights, and deteriorating the protections and conditions of workers and trade unions. These new laws are allowing employers to unilaterally suspend collective agreements, strip employees of the right to trade union protection in the case of dismissal, and erode long established rights such as guaranteed holidays and other social benefits.
Many of these changes are in breach of the Ukrainian Constitution, as well as International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and European Union directives. Unions are calling on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to veto and reverse these laws.
While railway workers, since the very beginning of the war, have been transporting refugees, humanitarian aid, and other essential goods, the government has repaid this vital contribution by accelerating the privatisation of the nation's railways.
David Gobé, Chair of the ITF Railway Workers’ Section, said:
“These attacks on trade unions and workers’ rights are an affront to all workers, but especially to the very people who have played, and continue to play, such a vital role in keeping Ukrainians fed, supplied, and moving. In any crisis, workers must be a part of the solution, but these laws make that harder - not easier. President Zelenskyy must scrap and repeal these laws immediately.”
We call upon all ITF and ETF affiliates to contribute to the solidarity fund during this difficult time for our sisters and brothers in Ukraine. Click here to donate securely:
The ITF has published a statement about the solidarity visit to Ukraine https://www.itfglobal.org/en/news/ukraine-solidarity-strengthened-conflict