|The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date. This site is not updated so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. |
NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
TITLE: UKRAINE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE UKRAINE Ukraine was governed in 1993 by the 1978 Constitution of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, modified by the introduction of a Presidency and a multiparty system. The President, elected for a 5-year term, nominates the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, who are subject to confirmation by the Parliament. Day-to-day government operations are the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The 450-member parliament, called the Supreme Rada (Council), was elected in 1990, before Ukraine's 1991 declaration of independence and while the country was still dominated by the Communist Party. It is responsible for initiating legislation, ratifying international treaties and agreements, and approving the state budget. A parliamentary commission, formed in 1992 to prepare a new constitution, had not completed its work by year's end. In general, 1993 was a year of increasing governmental and executive-legislative deadlock. As an extension of his de facto control over economic and administrative reforms, President Leonid Kravchuk continued to use his authority to appoint presidential representatives with broad powers to each oblast (provincial) government; the Rada curtailed some of their powers during 1993. The ability of the legislative and judicial branches to function independently from the executive branch remained limited. In an effort to break the deadlock, the Rada called for early parliamentary elections in March 1994 and presidential elections in June 1994. The National Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), and the Ministry of Defense all have equal status and report directly to the President through the Council of Ministers. The chairmen of these institutions sit on the Council of Ministers and simultaneously chair executive committees of the Council responsible for each of their ministries. The senior leadership of each of these services and officials in related ministries comprise the membership of these executive committees. The Rada confirms the appointment of each chairman after hearings and has established committees to advise and consult with the executive committees on a regular basis. The armed forces have largely remained outside politics. The SBU participates in parliamentary debate in a technical advisory capacity. Although the SBU has affected the political process with its corruption investigations against leading politicians, it has not engaged in purely partisan political activity. Human rights organizations have not reported any violations of human rights by the SBU. In November 1992, the Rada granted extraordinary powers to the Prime Minister for reform and regulation of the economy. The Prime Minister was empowered to issue economic decrees with the force of law, unless vetoed by the Rada within 10 days. The Government used this authority to introduce small-scale privatization, some financial stabilization, and limited land reform. Because of the opposition of conservative factions to broader reforms, in May 1993 the Rada refused to extend the extraordinary powers. The economy did poorly in 1993: production in state-owned industries declined rapidly while state subsidies increased, the budget deficit jumped, the currency remained unstabilized, and the economy fell into hyperinflation. The human rights picture remains mixed. While there are few significant violations, the populace as a whole lacks an understanding of its human rights. The 1991 law on the rights of ethnic minorities (enhanced by the 1992 law on national minorities) guarantees persons belonging to ethnic minorities the right to schools and cultural facilities and the use of their languages in business and official correspondence. While some ethnic tension persists, particularly between Ukrainians and Russians in Crimea, Ukraine has been remarkably free of interethnic antagonism and conflict. There is residual anti-Semitism. Other human rights problems include continuing restrictions on freedom of the press and unreformed Soviet-era prison and legal systems. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing Several political killings (of officers of the Black Sea fleet and a political candidate) were alleged to have occurred in Crimea in late 1993. Some accused the Government of participating in these killings and of refusing to conduct thorough and timely investigations. At year's end, there was no conclusive evidence that the killings were politically motivated or that they were perpetrated by government agencies. b. Disappearance There were no reported incidents of abductions or disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The 1978 Constitution prohibits torture. However, police beatings occasionally occur, and there is no mechanism for registering complaints about mistreatment or for obtaining redress. Visitors to Ukrainian prisons describe conditions as severely substandard. Prisons are overcrowded, with the number of prisoners sometimes four times capacity. Because of poor hygenic conditions and inadequate diet, full-scale riots have erupted. Prison authorities and the MVD have done little to reform prison conditions and have also refused to discuss the subject with foreign governments, other Ukrainian government bodies, human rights groups, or Ukrainian civic organizations. The Ukrainian psychiatric community has begun to adopt more humane methods of treatment. Some in the Government support the adoption of less coercive and degrading modes of treatment. Despite the resource constraints imposed by the economic crisis, efforts to improve medical training, hospital conditions, patients' rights, and legal norms are proceeding. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile There were no reported cases in 1993 of arbitrary arrest or detention of persons. Ukraine has only slightly amended its Soviet-era law on detentions. A person suspected of a crime may be detained for 3 days without warrant. A prosecutor must issue an arrest order permitting detention beyond 3 days. The maximum period of detention after charges have been filed could be as much as 1 1/2 years. The law permits citizens to appeal the legality of an arrest either to the court or to the prosecutor. As citizens gain a better understanding of their rights under a 1992 law, they are increasingly filing appeals with the courts. The authorities have dismissed individual officials for not adhering to legal guidelines. There is no bail system, although once charges are filed the court may release the defendant on his own recognizance. A judge must initiate a trial within 3 weeks from the time charges are filed, a limit that not always met in practice. In the overloaded court system, months may pass before a defendant is brought to court. The law provides for a detainee's access to a defense attorney from the moment of detention or the filing of charges, whichever comes first. To protect the defendant, each investigative file must contain a document signed by the defendant and his counsel attesting that the defendant's rights were explained to him in the presence of an attorney. An appeals court may dismiss a conviction or order a new trial if this document is missing. As defendants became aware of their rights, they increasingly took advantage of the changes in criminal procedure. However, many still do not know about, and therefore cannot avail themselves of, these procedures. Defense attorneys' fees also have become prohibitively expensive. There is no exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Ukrainian court system follows the Soviet model. Aside from a December 1991 law modifying the Ukrainian system of prosecution and a June 1992 law creating the Constitutional Court, there has not been major structural reform. All the candidates selected by the Government for the Constitutional Court refused appointments, and the Court has not been able to begin work. The courts are undifferentiated as to function. In the same day, judges may hear criminal, civil, and juvenile cases. The courts are organized on three levels: rayon courts (regional, also known as people's courts); oblast (provincial) courts; and the Supreme Court. All may act as the court of first instance depending on the severity of the crime. A case heard in the first instance by the Supreme Court, therefore, may not be appealed or reviewed. There are no clear rules to determine which court first hears a case. As a rule, military tribunals handle cases involving military personnel only. Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the rayon, oblast, and republic levels. They are ultimately responsible to the Prosecutor General appointed by the Rada. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have equal status before the courts. Prosecutors still are very influential in court proceedings. The prosecutor directs the Security Service in an investigation or uses the investigative resources of the prosecutor's office. While the defendant is presumed innocent and tried before a panel of judges, conviction rates have not changed from the Soviet era. Nearly 99 percent of cases end in convictions. However, the structure of the system is such that judges frequently send back for additional investigation those cases unlikely to end in convictions. These cases are then sometimes dropped or closed, occasionally without informing the court or the defendant. Consequently, convictions rates are a somewhat misleading statistic. Oblast and Supreme Court judges may not be members of political parties and must have at least 5 years of legal experience. The Rada selects judges on the basis of recommendations from the Ministry of Justice which are based in part on examination results. The chief prosecutor and deputy chief prosecutor are nominated by the President and confirmed by Parliament. State and local prosecutors are appointed by the chief prosecutor. Many current judges and prosecutors were appointed in Soviet times when political influence pervaded the judicial system. It is unclear how free the judiciary now is from influence and intimidation by the executive branch of government. At the oblast level especially, judges, prosecutors, and other court officials appear to remain closely attuned to local government interests. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The SBU may conduct intrusive surveillance and searches without a warrant on national security grounds. Human rights observers report receiving no complaints of invasion of privacy by the SBU. According to the SBU charter, persons subject to surveillance must be informed after a month's time. The Prosecutor General's office has oversight responsibility over the SBU and is utilizing its authority to monitor its activities and to curb excesses by security officials. In the past, excesses have included overzealous surveillance and searches, and unwarranted detentions. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press A 1991 Ukrainian law purports to protect freedom of speech and press. However, there are significant impediments to the exercise of these freedoms, and the 1991 law only covers printed media. Criticism of the Government is tolerated, but lack of independent funding and of public support for independent media make it difficult for opposition leaders to disseminate their views widely. Most newspapers continue to receive state subsidies, a form of indirect control over their activities. While no direct government censorship mechanism exists, official newspapers in the past have been reluctant to publish antigovernment editorials or information that could offend the Government because of the ingrained habit of following the party line formed during Soviet times. In December opposition parties and candidates asserted that the Government reduced media availability and access for candidates for public office. One paper critical of the Government was closed for nonpayment of debt to the state monopoly enterprise selling newsprint. The editor of the most popular newspaper in Ukraine, also critical of the Government (and the opposition), was replaced with a more progovernment editor. The parent company asserts that the editor was replaced because the newspaper was 12 billion karbovontni in debt to the State. Opposition politicians claim that the parent company, subject to pressure from the Government, actually was practicing self-censorship. Official publications, heavily subsidized despite the economic crisis, continue to publish without hindrance. A recent Ukrainian decree placed newsprint in the category of a strategic material, giving the Government control over the distribution of all paper. The President, in announcing the decree, stated that this would enable the Government to ensure equal distribution of paper to all government and independent newspapers in a time of shortage. Generally, paper shortages appear to affect all papers regardless of political orientation. In the second half of 1993, press criticism of the Government was more open, notably regarding the Government's economic program and policy toward Russia. A new threat to free and open discussion of issues came from criminal elements and organized crime. This is an aspect of Ukrainian life that has grown dramatically, nearly undeterred by the Government, since independence. Some journalists and editors report they fear reprisals from criminal elements if they expose how Ukrainian organized crime has come to control much of private and governmental life. No law protects or defines the role of government in the electronic media. In the state-sponsored broadcast media, the Government has been known to restrict discussion of such domestic problems as inter-Orthodox Church squabbles. Several private Ukrainian television channels rebroadcast uncensored foreign news programs and create their own programming. Foreign broadcasts are received without interference. Russian broadcast media are more popular than their Ukrainian counterparts and frequently criticize the Ukrainian Government. Senior government officials are highly critical of the Russian media, but the Government does not attempt to jam Russian broadcasts. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The law on public assembly, which dates from 1989, stipulates that organizations must apply for permission to the respective local administration 10 days before a planned demonstration. Participants in demonstrations are prohibited by law from instigating violence or ethnic conflict and from calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order. Demonstrations may not interfere with traffic, take part near the Rada when it is in session, or otherwise hinder municipal life. In Kiev permits are routinely granted. Unlicensed demonstrations, including demonstrations and hunger strikes at the Parliament building when the Rada is in session, often occur without police interference. The 1992 law on public organizations prohibits the State from financing political parties and other public organizations. According to the law, political parties may not receive funds from abroad or maintain accounts in foreign banks. The law prohibits organizations advocating the violent overthrow of the Government and constitutional order or undermining Ukraine's state security by collaboration with other states. Political parties are barred from having administrative or organizational structures abroad. The law prohibits police, members of the armed forces, and executive branch officials from joining political parties, but many such individuals nonetheless publicly associate themselves with specific parties. Political parties may be dissolved only by a court decision. The Supreme Court may dissolve a party for advocating the overthrow of the State, for anti-Ukrainian activities, for violating or advocating the violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, or for urging citizens not to honor their constitutional duties. Because there have been no dissolutions since independence, the criteria are not yet set by precedent. The Communist Party of Ukraine, a subsidiary of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), was banned immediately after the coup attempt of 1991, and many Communists participated in establishing the Socialist Party of Ukraine. In December 1993, the Government reregistered the Communist Party. c. Freedom of Religion The 1991 law on freedom of conscience and religion permits religious organizations to establish places of worship and train clergy. Religious organizations are required to register with local authorities and with the Government's Council of Religious Affairs. As a rule, the registration process lasts about 1 month. The State has not interfered with the registration of minority religions (e.g., Islam, Mormon, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of the Nazarene). Obstacles to complete religious freedom still exist at the local level where in some places the bureaucracy has delayed registration of religious organizations. However, a Ukrainian religious organization may not be denied registration. Any Ukrainian group representing itself as a church can apply for registration. While technically no church has been denied registration to date, the application of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has not been acted upon for over a year, pending the resolution of very contentious property issues between Ukrainian communions. Churches are permitted to maintain links with coreligionists in other countries. Religious publications are freely allowed. Greek Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish services are televised on major religious holidays. Easter and Christmas are official holidays. Religious groups are allowed to proselytize and distribute Bibles and other religious publications. An amendment to the 1991 law, passed by the Rada on December 23, 1993, raised religious freedom concerns. President Kravchuk, as of the end of the year, had not signed this legislation. The amendment in question states: "Clergymen, religious preachers, teachers, other representatives of foreign organizations who are foreign citizens and come to visit temporarily in Ukraine may preach religious doctrines, administer religious ordinances, or practice other canonic activities only in those religious organizations which invited them to Ukraine and with official approval of the governmental body that has registered the statutes (and) the articles of the pertinent religious organization." This amendment could be used to restrict the activities of non-native Ukrainian religious organizations. Some government officials, citing a desire to preserve Ukrainian culture, have stated that restrictions on the activities of non-native religious organizations would be appropriate. Religious education classes are permitted in public schools as an extracurricular activity. The Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches have seminaries. Jewish religious schools (yeshivas) operate in Kiev, L'viv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Uman, and Vinnytsia. Jews in Ukraine have expanded opportunities to pursue their religious and cultural activities, but anti-Semitic incidents continue to occur. In September a Jewish leader's home was set on fire, and another leader received anonymous death threats. Jewish cemeteries in Cherkasy oblast were desecrated by construction authorized by local authorities that resulted in remains being unearthed. The authorities responded to protests by halting the construction. In addition, several synagogues were restored to Jewish communities, and approvals were given for the construction of new ones. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation Ukraine continues to require its citizens to register with a local Visas and Registration Office (OVIR), a Soviet-era relic. In 1993 Ukraine dropped its requirement for exit visas, and all citizens are eligible for passports that permit free travel abroad. Passports issued before independence must be submitted for certification of citizenship status. Ukraine assures the right of return for all those it considers its citizens. Persons born in Ukraine and living in Ukraine at the time of independence are considered citizens. The right of return is available to people of Ukrainian descent who left the country prior to independence and did not assume other citizenship. Dual citizenship is not permitted. In mid-1992 the Government issued a statement allowing all those born in Ukraine to receive a document from any Ukrainian diplomatic mission abroad that would serve as a travel document to Ukraine. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The peaceful, democratic transfer of power from an incumbent government to an opposition party has yet to be tested. The present Rada was elected under the Soviet system and during Communist party domination. On September 24, the Rada, already rendered ineffective by a continuing deadlock with the Government, voted to hold early elections for a new president and a new Rada. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 27, 1994, and presidential elections are to be held on June 26, 1994. However, a new law on elections has yet to be adopted. The right to vote is granted to all adult citizens regardless of nationality, religion, or sex. In 1992 the Rada gave extraordinary powers to President Kravchuk and temporarily (until May 1993) relinquished its powers to the Prime Minister in a number of crucial economic areas. The Rada recovered those powers from the Prime Minister in May 1993 without a serious confrontation with the executive branch. President Kravchuk continues to dominate political life. During 1992, at Kravchuk's request, the Rada passed a law on "presidential representation" which gives the President authority to appoint a representative to each oblast. The law gave the representative broad powers over local government and further concentrated political power in the executive branch. In many cases, presidential representatives used these powers to promote reform in oblasts and cities. In 1993, however, the Rada, many of whose members were alarmed at the pace of reform or at the growth of presidential authority, successfully curtailed the powers of presidential representatives. The effect was to slow economic reforms. Deputies to the Rada, as well as the members of oblast councils, were elected to 5-year terms in 1990, before independence. Most of the deputies at both the national and local levels are conservatives drawn from the Communist Party nomenclatura. A number of reform-minded Communist deputies formed new parties or joined forces with the opposition, and the Rada is now divided about equally between the conservatives and the opposition coalition of nationalists and reform-oriented deputies. The Rada continues to debate the provisions of a new constitution, but there is no clear timetable for its adoption. The division of power between the legislature and the executive has yet to be determined. Many deputies have criticized the draft for giving the President too much authority. A coalition of democratic forces, including Rukh and a political alliance, New Ukraine, spearheaded a campaign to hold a popular referendum on the President and the Rada that eventually led to the Rada's decision to call early parliamentary and presidential elections. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights The Government allowed local and international human rights groups to operate freely. The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews has an active office in Kiev, staffed with local human rights monitors. The Government also welcomed visits by foreign human rights organizations. The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe was invited to observe the independence referendum (later canceled) and presidential elections. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and other grounds is prohibited in the Constitution. Women There are reports of violence against women, often involving the high incidence of alcoholism, but no statistics are available. Ukrainian labor law guarantees all work-related rights to women as well as men. Although equal pay for equal work is the law, women are seldom seen in high-level managerial positions or in high political office. However, educational opportunities for women are improving, and more women are entering the legal, medical, and journalism professions. Women may be the chief victims of unemployment caused by the economic crisis. Some estimates indicate that women account for 90 percent of the unemployed. There is poor understanding of the meaning of discrimination against women and no widespread women's rights activity. There is a lack of awareness of spouse abuse and other violence against women as a women's rights issue. There are no separate statistics on prosecutions for wife beating or on average sentences. Some sources assert that the low incidence of reported crimes against women is evidence that violence against women is not a problem. However, other sources assert that women may not report crimes against them because they perceive the legal system to be ineffective and inhospitable. Government officials have acknowledged that women are often pressured by authorities to drop charges against their husbands to preserve the family. Children Government officials assert that the Government is committed to children's rights. Because of the deepening economic crisis, the Government has taken few specific steps to further a children's rights agenda. Much of the social welfare system is dedicated to the support of children, including: supplemental state payments to families with children, generous postpartum paid leave benefits, numerous children's hospitals, and universal free education at all levels. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Although a 1989 law promotes Ukrainian as the state language, the November 1991 law on the rights of national minorities allows individual citizens to use their respective national languages in conducting personal business. Laws and decrees are published in both Russian and Ukrainian. In areas where there are large Russian minorities (Crimea and eastern Ukraine), Russian is permitted as a language of official correspondence alongside Ukrainian and is also the language of instruction in schools. Russian is recognized as the official language of Crimea. Elsewhere, the Russian minority complained of language discrimination. There was no evidence of serious Russian-Ukrainian ethnic tension except in Crimea, where the Ukrainian minority complains of discrimination by the Russian majority, and in some parts of western Ukraine, where local Ukrainian nationalists discriminate against the minority Russian population. Some Russians (and Ukrainians) in Ukraine have complained about the increased use of Ukrainian (the official state language) in schools and in the media. The Russian-speaking people of eastern Ukraine have claimed that their children are forced to take Ukrainian-language tests, and their poor showings on these tests negatively affect their scholastic careers. It is up to the municipality, not the central Government, to determine the language of instruction in the schools. The draft constitution also guarantees local minorities the choice of language in public and private life. Polish, Hungarian, and other ethnic minorities have been granted sites for schools and cultural organizations. While there may be some isolated cases of discrimination against ethnic Russians, the majority of Ukrainian citizens do not appear to differentiate between Ukrainian and Russian ethnicity. The Ukrainian citizenship law confers the same legal status on all citizens regardless of ethnic affiliation. However, it does not recognize dual citizenship, unless specifically guaranteed by a bilateral treaty. Russia and Ukraine, for example, have no bilateral treaty on this subject, although Russia has repeatedly urged Ukraine to discuss dual citizenship. In 1991 the Rada amended the citizenship law to remove notations in passports identifying citizens by ethnicity and religion. Religious Minorities Jews are the second largest minority in Ukraine. Emigration to the West and Israel has resulted in a decline in their population. Despite government statements denouncing anti-Semitism, manifestations of it continue, exemplified by the growth of an ultranationalist extremist group in western Ukraine which professes strong anti-Semitic sentiment. The group applied for recognition as a political party, but the Government refused to register it. Distribution of anti-Semitic posters and literature appeared to increase during the year. People with Disabilities By law, no discrimination based on disability is permitted; however, persons with disabilities are rarely employed. In the present economic crisis with high unemployment, there are no effective governmental programs targeted at increasing opportunities for the disabled. Public facilities are poorly adapted for the disabled. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association Soviet law, or pertinent parts of the 1978 Ukrainian Constitution, continue to regulate the activities of trade unions. The law on citizens' organizations passed in 1992 guarantees noninterference by public authorities in the activities of citizens' organizations and the right of these organizations to establish and join federations, and to affiliate with international organizations on a voluntary basis. A new constitution and new law on trade unions are being debated, which will affect the future status and activities of trade unions. In principle, all workers and civil servants (including members of the armed forces) are free to form unions. In practice, the Government discourages certain categories of workers (e.g., nuclear power plant employees) from doing so. A successor to the former official Soviet trade unions, the official Ukrainian trade union, known as the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), has begun to work independently of the Government and has been vocal in opposing draft legislation that would restrict the right to strike. The FTU is considered a partner with management in the running of state enterprises. The Government provides this organization with office buildings and resort properties. The FTU has no official or legal relationship with the Socialist Party of Ukraine. Many independent Ukrainian unions now provide an alternative to the official unions in most sectors of the economy. Some, such as the Independent Miners' Union of Ukraine (NPGU), emerged out of the 1989 strike committees and were instrumental in creating the independent miners' unions of the U.S.S.R. but broke away when Ukraine became independent. Independent unions were established in the Black Sea fleet, among the military officers of Ukraine, and among the scientific workers of the academy of sciences. In early 1992, the NPGU, pilots, civil air dispatchers, locomotive engineers, and aviation ground crews unions formed the Consultative Council of Free Trade Unions. This entity acts independently of the FTU. In negotiating wages, the Government has invited all unions, not just the FTU, to participate. The law on labor conflict resolution guarantees the right to strike to all but members of the armed forces, civil and security services, and employees of "continuing process plants" (e.g., metallurgical factories). The law prohibits strikes that "may infringe on the basic needs of the population" (e.g., rail and air transportation). Strikes based on political demands are illegal. However, this did not stop miners and transportation workers from making political as well as economic demands during their September strike. The law forbids penalizing union members who participate in strikes. The Government has relied on the courts to deal with strikes that it feels have violated the law. The courts, however, have not always ruled in favor of government views. There are no official restrictions on the right of unions to affiliate with international trade union bodies; the NPGU is a member of the International Miners' Union. The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations has a permanent representative in Kiev who interacts freely with the Consultative Council of Independent Trade Unions. Independent unions have not been pressured to limit their contacts with international nongovernmental organizations. In October a leader of one of the independent labor organizations alleged that the Security Service seized documents relating to international activities and detained a union official responsible for international affairs. While the union official remains in custody, due to the lack of bail in the Ukrainian system, this incident appears to be an isolated case which may involve criminal activity. No similar reports of harassment, before or after this incident, have been noted. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively In accordance with the law on enterprises, joint worker- management commissions should resolve issues concerning wages, working conditions, and the rights and duties of management at the enterprise level, a system that is not clearly defined. Overlapping spheres of responsibility frequently impede the collective bargaining process. Wages in each industrial sector are established by government agreements with trade unions. All unions are invited to participate in the negotiations. The law on labor conflict resolution introduced another bureaucracy, the National Mediation and Reconciliation Service, to mitigate labor-management disputes that cannot be resolved at the enterprise level. The President appoints the head of this service. Collective bargaining law prejudices the bargaining process against the independent trade unions and favors the official unions. The collective bargaining law provides for dues to be taken from the pay of every worker in a collective and paid to the official union. The social welfare benefits of workers paid by an enterprise are administered for the enterprise by the official union. Most workers are never informed that they are not obligated to join the official union, and joining an independent union can be bureaucratically onerous. Three steps must be followed to direct one's dues to an independent union. First, the worker must submit a form to the official union stating that the worker does not wish the official union to represent the worker. Second, the worker must submit a form to the independent union declaring the worker's desire to join the independent union. Finally, a third form must be submitted to the enterprise directing that payroll deductions be given to the indpendent union. Independent unions are not given resources to administer social welfare benefits. Enterprise directors discourage departures from the offical union by meeting with workers to discuss the benefits of official union membership. The collective bargaining law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The courts resolve disputes under that law. There have been cases in which such disputes have not been resolved in a fair and equitable manner. There are no export processing zones in Ukraine. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The Constitution forbids compulsory labor, and it is not known to exist. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The minimum employment age is 17. However, in certain nonhazardous industries, enterprises can negotiate with the Government to hire employees between 15 and 17 years of age. Education is compulsory up to age 15. The Ministry of Education vigorously enforces the law on education. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work In 1992 the Government established a countrywide minimum wage. Prior to the onset of high inflation, the minimum wage and numerous other mandatory subsidies provided a decent income for a family. However, monthly inflation rose dramatically during 1993, beginning at about 40 percent in January, according to unofficial estimates, and reaching about 70 percent in December. This hyperinflation has seriously eroded incomes, and over half the population of Ukraine now lives below the poverty level, with further declines expected. In theory, the current law on wages, pensions, and social security provides for mechanisms to index the minimum wage to inflation. The Labor Code provides for a maximum 41-hour workweek and at least 15 workdays of paid vacation per year. Ukrainian labor law provides for at least one 24-hour rest period per week. Economic stagnation in some industries (e.g., defense) have significantly reduced the workweek for some categories of workers. Gross undercompensation for overtime work in some sectors (e.g., railroad workers) has resulted in strikes. The Constitution and other laws contain occupational safety and health standards, but these are frequently ignored in practice. Lax safety conditions were the principal causes of two serious mine accidents that occurred in the summer of 1992, resulting in dozens of casualties. In theory, workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing continued employment. In reality, however, labor experts say that continued employment would be in question. The Labor Ministry is currently rewriting the mine safety law. The NPGU is demanding that the Government improve worker safety in the mines.
[end of document]
to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.