This is a response to a warning shot, – miner

25th of August it is the Miners’ day in Ukraine. It is good to know that today the miners are proving that they are the vanguard of the working class. Oleh Sychiov, assistant of the Head of of National Union of Miners of Ukraine at the “Gvardiyska” mine, is telling us about a recent “italian strike”

Interviewed by Vitaliy DUDIN,
translated by Anastasiya RYABCHUK,
“Left opposition”

25th of August it is the Miners’ day in Ukraine. It is good to know that today the miners are proving that they are the vanguard of the working class. The struggle between miners and the administration of Kryvyi Rih iron-ore integrated works in Dnipropetrovsk region is ongoing. Workers of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine (NUMU) have proven their determination and solidarity by initiating an “italian strike” at the “Gvardiyska” mine. In order to neutralize the protest, capitalists have resorted to psychological pressure, disciplining and to partial concessions.

Miners are leading their struggle by relying exclusively on class force, which is worthy of respect. They have refused to accept support of opposition parties, but are being supported by local leftist activists. Miners are asking for solidarity, and most importantly – for support in spreading information about the strike, which will limit the authorities actions to legal ones. Local government, linked with the owners of the integrated works, is trying to silence the strike. For instance, the head of the local branch of NUMU Yuri Samoylov said that his interview given to the local TV channel “Rudana” was not broadcast.

On the 10th of July this year the dissatisfied miners had a meeting followed by compilation of a list of demands for the integrated works owners on the 12th of July. Among other things, workers are demanding an increase in their wages. Commission’s response on the 29th of July was to declare demands of wage rise as “unjustified”, despite the fact that high productivity of the enterprise is well-known to all.

When miners began collecting signatures in favor of the strike, they met with all possible bureaucratic barriers, such as the necessity to have signatures of more than a half of all workers (more than 600 signatures). This is yet another proof of the relevance of the widening of the right to strike, declared by the “Left opposition”. Having united workers at different mines, an “italian strike” was declared, that is – working according to all safety regulations.

Just as this text is being written, the general meeting of workers’ collective of the Kryvyi Rih iron ore integrated works is taking place in the city that is the heart of Ukrainian industry. One of the leaders of the protest – Oleh Sychiov, assistant of the Head of of National Union of Miners of Ukraine at the “Gvardiyska” mine – responded to questions posed by GASLO.INFO:

- What are the demands of the striking miners?
- In the process of the strike our demands have widened. At first we demanded 1) to work on the proposal for improving safety conditions at the workplace; 2) to provide workers with all the work materials and instruments on time; 3) to secure the constant part of salary at 80%; 4) to increase the wage rates and salaries by 50%, beginning in September 2013. But after the commission declared the most important demands as “unjustified”, we have added another point to our demands – the fulfillment of the Ukrainian law “On the increase in the prestige of miners’ labor”.

- What means of pressure is the administration using?
- The pressure is mainly psychological. In public, members of administration act as if the situation did not concern them. But we know that the director of the mine was instructed to fire the initiators of the protest at all cost. When they found found about the intention to prepare a strike according to all legal procedures, administration began collecting compromising materials. All failures in the quality of work from our side are being filed to be used against us. Vice-director for production Oleksandr Melanich is writing reports on failures. But he knows nothing about norms of labor regulation! I am doing everything – arranging, cutting off, shooting… According to the norms of labor regulation I need eight hours for arranging and I’m am strictly following these norms. Why have I as a sinker of fifth category have been able to do this work faster before? This can be achieved either with better equipment or by violation safety regulations.

My colleague was called for the first time for the evaluation of the quality of work at his unit. It was before the “italian strike”. The administration called is a “warning shot”. The “italian strike’ was a complete surprise for them. The director asked me why it happened. I said “This is our response to your warning shot”.

- What were the consequences of the “italian strike”?
- Productivity fell by almost 50%. On Wednesday, August 21 the morning shift almost stopped all work by demanding to give them special rubber gloves. Others were working without putting too much effort in. Our mine with forty sinkers gave seven explosions, while it should have given at least forty. This protest had also an incredible positive effect on the spirit of struggle in the collective. Our union’s membership began to grow. When we received a decline of our demands on July 29 some workers were disoriented. We were collecting signatures, but the process was a bit lifeless.

- How has the administration reacted to this protest?

- Our director ordered us to come out to work on a Saturday, in order to make for the lost time during the strike. He said that we wasted a whole shift. But we said that noone will do it, especially since that weekend it was Independence day and Miners’ day. He insisted that we had to do it for free. The director was hysteric, and then he called for a compromise. We rejected his proposal to work for free, and then he said that the weekend work will be paid at a double rate, according to the Labor code. But nobody came out to work on the weekend, at least not in our brigade. When the administration understood that they cannot take us by force, they declared that they will raise our salaries by 12%. But nevertheless we will not end our struggle.

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