Over 2000 Ukrainian coal miners have gone on strike, as unions demand higher wages and workers refuse to accept a pay cut to fund the restoration of Kiev, which suffered damage during the coup that overthrew the previous pro-Russian government.
Some 80% of miners from five coal mines belonging to the Krasnodonugol enterprise in the city of Krasnodon have refused to turn up for work. The mines are all owned by one of the richest men in Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov, of the mining and metallurgical Metinvest corporation.
Miners are pushing for wage increases to match the region’s average pay, as well as for better social and living conditions and higher social bonuses. According to the miners, they receive wages that are below half the average wage in the region.
Miners are also refusing to pay a 10% tax on their salaries, imposed by the new Ukrainian government authorities, to restore the Maidan square in Kiev. The square and nearby buildings suffered significant damage during months of rallies that culminated in a violent standoff with Ukrainian special police forces in which scores of pro-EU civilians were killed by snipers.
The prosecutors office in Krasnodon is conducting an investigation into the legal compliance and requirements for miner’s fair pay. The company is locked in negotiations with the strikers.
International relations expert, Mark Sleboda, told Reuters that Kiev cannot afford to lose control of “the real bread winner of Ukraine – the mining industry.”
The mining industry employs about 500 000 people throughout the country, provides about 15% of Ukraine’s GDP and coal alone makes up 30% of Ukraine’s energy consumption, according to Sleboda.
Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson
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