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.