Unions on the front line


Olesia Briazgunova

March 13, 2023

Olesia Briazgunova says it is painful organising in war conditions

The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) has been working in the traditional way of defending workers’ rights and in a new way, by providing aid for people affected by the war since the full-scale invasion. For example, the KVPU helps its members and workers in mining towns and settlements near the battle zones, because there is a problem of shortages in the supply of goods and food. Our health care workers experience military attacks, with many of their homes and family members lost. As trade unionists, we do all we can to stop the attacks. We have only one option: victory against Russia. Russia will not stop committing genocide in Ukraine.

We are thankful for the parliamentary motion calling for more weapons from the UK to people fighting for their homeland and peace.

The price we are paying is very high. The son of our trade union leader was killed in action recently. Oleksandr Kozbur, a member of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine, was killed in action in January. It is very painful. Eighty of our members have been killed in action. A lot of our servicemen and women are missing. Of course, we want all our members back home soon.

This is why we also need help with tactical medicines. We are grateful for help to our refugees. There will possibly be a new wave soon, especially of women and children, afraid of a new attack from Russian forces.

One of the important directions of our activities is aid to hospitals and medical workers, because the Russians have been taking away medical supplies and looting hospitals since the first weeks of the full-scale war and during occupation. Additionally, they have attacked our hospitals. Our union provided help to hospitals in Kharkiv, Donetsk and other parts of the eastern region. The KVPU helped the maternity hospital in Chernihiv that was deliberately targeted, with pregnant women being forced to stay in basements.

Equipment is needed in every region, especially because of wounded soldiers coming west for treatment. We are grateful for generators from different countries. Our lack of medical equipment and medicines will be a priority.

The social dialogue we had before the war is now not at the same level. It is harder to negotiate, and in time of war, we have restrictions on our activities. We are trying to persuade the government that liberalisation of labour legislation can have disastrous consequences for workers. We hope the government will listen to European partners and trade unions and ensure implementation of international labour standards and European directives.