Miners Strike Sweeps Ukraine

Anthracite Coal = Ukraine’s Black Gold

I saw this piece in VZGLIAD today.  A hundred coal miners from the “Novovolynska” mine (Northwest Ukraine) have gone out on strike, and are picketing the highway which leads from Kovel to Lviv.

The miners, led by Trade Union Chairman Mikhail Volynets, have a simple demand:  “Pay us our back wages.”  The “Novovolynska” mine owes the workers 14.5 million hryvnas in unpaid back wages, according to Volynets.

This is just one of several miners strikes which have broken out sporadically in that part of Ukraine controlled by the Kiev government.  The miners feel like the government (and not just this one, but the previous one too) have completely abandoned them.  Due to austerity measures the government has laid off workers, cut benefits, and then not even paid the workers the wages that are owed them.  It seems like the government would rather lay off its own workers and buy more expensive coal from South Africa.  Coal which, as they found out last winter, doesn’t even suit Ukrainian furnaces.  Which crave pure anthracite.

The Miners Union feels that, if the government would raise the price of coal from 1100 to 1500 hryvnas, then this would benefit everyone:  both miners AND govenment.  Because it’s still cheaper than buying coal from abroad.

Sadly, Ukraine’s coal industry is dying a slow and painful death.  In 2013 Ukraine exported 8.5 million tons of coal.  In 2014, Ukraine had to IMPORT coal.  And that wasn’t just because they had lost the Donbass.  The real reason is because Ukraine, as part of the price for the EU Association Agreement, had to agree to kill its own coal industry.

In other words, the EU Association Agreement was a one-sided suicide pact.

But so desperate is the Ukrainian government at this moment for an immediate fix of anthracite, that they apparently, according to Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) Transportation Minister Semen Kuzmenko, have made a deal with DPR (=their sworn enemies, Separatists, terrorists, etc.) for the latter to deliver anthracite to the Kiev-controlled areas.

I would only hope that the DPR leadership keeps in mind, that their brother coal miners on the other side of the front are struggling to feed their families; and being forced to go on strike for unpaid wages.

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9 Responses to Miners Strike Sweeps Ukraine

  1. Cortes says:

    Anthracite was the best product of the South Wales Coalfield. A few private sector small scale mines still operate. Maybe Porky could persuade Ham Lancer Dave to ship a few tonnes over to Galitsia?


    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, maybe he could. And at least the shipping fees wouldn’t be so bad as coming on boat all the way from South Africa.
      Not to mention having to cross both Stormy Cape and Equator.
      Which is what ruined the life of the Flying Dutchman, from what I hear.


  2. Jen says:

    Australia was supposed to ship over coal to the Yukies. I wonder what became of that idea? If it failed, I wouldn’t be surprised, given that South African coal wasn’t suited to Ukrainian coal furnaces. Our coal would be the same age and of the same type as South African coal since once upon a time, South Africa and Australia were part of Gondwanaland and had the same plant species at the time (Permian era) the coal was being laid down.


  3. marknesop says:

    That’s a good point, about the Donbas miners sparing a thought for their brothers on the other side of the wire. You always did have a big heart. Perhaps Donbas should refuse to supply, coal, but I suppose they reason (a) Porky would only get it from Russia, and (b) provoking him might lead to renewed attacks.

    We know Yanukovych saw the trap, in time to pull his head back; perhaps it was only the stubborn insistence that he free Tymoshenko that turned him, but I don’t think so. An article in Der Speigel suggested Yanukovych had gone to Fule with an estimate prepared by his own economists of how much Ukraine would lose annually by being cut off from its Russian markets, only to have Fule airily wave it away without looking at it.

    Porky and his ilk (oddly, we have heard almost nothing in the past couple of weeks from Yatsenyuk, it just occurred to me) know they’ll be all right, and don’t care about Ukrainians. Say what you like about Yanukovych, he had the courage to make a decision he had to know would be tremendously unpopular, and he didn’t make it for personal gain, so it seems reasonable to conclude he made it for Ukraine. Poroshenko hasn’t got that kind of guts, and neither has anyone who works for him. I wonder if many Ukrainians realize that; I think they are starting to.


    • yalensis says:

      Dear Mark: I don’t actually have a big heart, it’s just that I was always raised to never cross a picket line, and to never be a scab.
      There are exceptions to that rule, obviously, but this is not one of them.

      If the Donbass miners were to show some solidarity with their brothers on the “other side of the wire”, then this could possibly help the future reconciliation of the two sides.
      I’m not saying the Donbass miners should stop mining coal; they should continue to mine, IMHO, and continue to supply Donbass.

      I just think they should refuse to ship the anthracite to Kiev. Force Kiev to make a deal with their own (=Galician) miners. Then the Galician miners have a better chance of winning their strike.
      From what I read, the only modest thing the Galician miners are requesting is (1) to pay back wages, and (2) raise the price which Ukie government pays to buy coal. Which could help to keep domestic mines in business.
      From this, the Trade Union leadership might also get a political clue, that Austerity, not to mention EU Association, have NOT been a good thing for domestic workers.


      • yalensis says:

        P.S. – in re Yats: From what I am reading, he is fighting for his life. Everybody wants him to resign, and even the Americans don’t really back him any more.
        We’ll have to watch and see how that pans out.


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