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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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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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