More than 100 workers from the state-owned LvivVugillya coal mines protested unpaid wages by blocking both directions of the Rava-Ruska border checkpoint with Poland, according to the Facebook page of the Independent Trade Union of Miners Chief Mykhailo Volynets.
The workers’ wage arrears have added up to more than $13.9 million (Hr 376.27 million) since July, according to Ukrinform.
On Dec. 8, the government announced it had agreed to allocate $11 million (Hr 300 million) towards paying the salaries of the employees of the entire state mining sector. This is the second installment of a planned $37 million (Hr 1 billion) payment to miners as outlined in the state budget. The Ministry of Energy has also proposed allocating another $33 million (Hr 900 million) in order to alleviate the crisis.
However, according to Volynets, wage arrears at the LvivVugillya mine remain at over $12 million (Hr 330 million). The union leader also added that unpaid wages across the public mining sector amounted to more than $74 million (Hr 2 billion).
Volynets said that if the workers’ demands are not met, they will block the customs checkpoints at the border crossing and continue impeding traffic.
Industrial action first began on Dec. 7, when 38 miners barricaded themselves underground, refusing to leave after the end of their shift. The protests later continued aboveground, where the workers began to block roads and picket the mine and city council buildings in Chervonohrad, a mining city in western Lviv Oblast.
This is just the latest action in six years of miner protests over unpaid wages. In 2019, miners from all across Ukraine gathered in front of the Ukrainian parliament to demand to be paid. Miners finally received compensation for missed wages from June to October, however, wages went unpaid once again in 2020.
In July, the government ordered mines to pay back wages to miners using 80% of the proceeds from the sale of their products, up from 70% the year before.
Unpaid wages have drastically hampered the productivity of the mining sector. Coal production fell to just 28.8 million tons in 2020, down from 64.9 million in 2014.
Ukrainian miners also work in dangerous conditions for extremely low pay. In 2019, the average salary of a coal miner in Ukraine was just $600 per month, less than the national average of $775, according to the IndustriALL Global Union.