Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
Trade Unions in Ukraine 363
PAUL KUBICEK Trade Unions in Ukraine 1. Introduction Since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, its trade unions have faced tremendous challenges, resulting in a decline in their economic and political importance. Many of the unions’ problems stem from general difficulties in the post-Soviet, post-communist environment: eliminating the vestigial remains of the communist system; pro- nounced and protracted economic decline; widespread corruption in political and economic life; authoritarian tendencies in the govern- ment, especially under the presidency of Leonid Kuchma (1994– 2004); regional divisions within Ukraine; and a frustrated, alienated population. Whereas under Soviet times trade unions occupied a secure, if often repressive, role as an appendage of the Party-state, they have steadily lost members and have not been able to find a strong voice in the post-communist economic and social system. Communist-era unions have been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to reform themselves, and new unions have found it difficult to find a place on factory floors or in Ukrainian political life. In addition to overcoming its Soviet-era inheritance, unions have also had to adapt themselves to new forms of ownership, new legal structures, incipient globalisation, and great economic uncertainty for their members. Lacking both the confidence of their members and a strong bargaining position in the economy, unions have largely been unable to assert themselves, despite widespread dissatisfaction among Ukrainians with their economic and social circumstances. While the ‘Orange Revolu- tion’ of 2004–5 offers some hope for democratisation in Ukraine, most unions were not significant players in this event...
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