Ukrainian trade unions are providing food and shelter to people after the Russian invasion amid attacks which have left people’s homes, workplaces, and infrastructure badly damaged.
The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPSU) and Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) trade unions, which represent almost 5 million workers, have thrown open the doors of their buildings across the country to people seeking refuge, including women and their children, elderly people and now people wounded in the conflict.
The humanitarian work of trade unions in Ukraine was set out by their leaders at an emergency executive committee of the ETUC, which agreed to help establish and support a solidarity fund for those efforts as well as maintaining pressure on the EU over sanctions and support for refugees.
ETUC members agreed to provide financial support for the humanitarian work of Ukrainian unions while lobbying the EU to take all necessary actions against the Russian government to end the war, support all refugees and provide social protection for people still in Ukraine.
ETUC affiliates in countries neighbouring Ukraine, and beyond, have immediately swung into action and have already mobilised to find accommodation with members for refugees as well as collecting food. It follows a demonstration against the invasion and in solidarity with Ukraine held by the ETUC and its affiliates in Brussels last week. The ETUC and ITUC are organising a European and Global Day of Action for Peace on 15 March in Brussels and other cities.
Speaking at the virtual meeting of 180 trade union leaders from across Europe, FPSU chair Grigori Osovyi said:
“Our facilities were mothballed for the winter, but we opened them up because we needed to find room for people. They need some rooms to have a bed, to have their meals.
“We receive calls for all sorts of help and aid material. Those meagre funds we were able to collect within our solidarity fund to spend for strike actions and demonstrations, this money is not enough to respond to the request for help coming from all quarters.”
“Members are continuing to go to work at key services like hospitals, transport, and power plants in spite of huge risk to their lives.”
KPVU deputy chair Nataliya Levytska said:
“I’m a mother, I’m terrified for my kids. For six days it’s been absolute nightmare. But we will not surrender, we will not give in. My son is 20 years old, and he did not flee Kyiv. He feels it is his duty. I’m afraid for him, I cannot sleep at night. Nobody can. I do not understand why our kids instead of going to school have to run to the bomb shelter.
“We have snow today. Now we’ve got a cold spell and people are left without clothes, without food, without medicines and a huge problem for people who are insulin dependent. There is no insulin. People are dying because there’s no way they can get any medical aid in this war situation.”
ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:
“War and its consequences always hit ordinary working people first and hardest and so it has proved again during this appalling, illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“Ukrainian trade unions are doing everything they can to contribute to efforts to protect people, peace and democracy and the ETUC is committed to providing all practical and political support possible.
“Solidarity is at the core of trade unionism and our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are showing that’s not just a slogan by putting their lives at risk every day to care for the most vulnerable victims of this invasion. We urge working people who can support their humanitarian efforts to do so.
“The EU has acted swiftly and correctly to hit Russia’s leaders with sanctions and protect refugees. We need to ensure maximum pressure on Russia to restore peace while establishing humanitarian corridors for refugees fleeing Ukraine and providing more financial support for those still in Ukraine.”
Donations to the solidarity fund can be made here: https://petitions.ituc-csi.org/support-ukraine?lang=en