Labor openDemocracy Ukraine Worker's Rights

Ukraine’s Anti-Worker Law Comes Into Effect

Law 5371, which strips back labour protections, has been ratified. Is there more to come?
Workers on McDonald’s Facade – Odessa, Ukraine 2016. Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By ODR Team / openDemocracy

On 17 August, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyi ratified Law 5371, which removes rights for workers at small and medium-sized companies. It will be effective for as long as the country is under martial law – a qualification added at the last minute, under pressure from trade unions.

Under the new law, people who work for firms with up to 250 employees will now be covered by contracts they negotiate as individuals with their bosses, rather than the national labour code.

In practice, this means that around 70% of workers in Ukraine have been stripped of many labour protections. Collective agreements negotiated by unions – over salary or holidays, for instance – no longer apply. The law also removes the legal authority of trade unions to veto workplace dismissals.

The Ukrainian government has claimed it is trying to alleviate the difficulties faced by companies in wartime. However, it first tried to introduce the new law in 2021.

Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party argued that “the extreme over-regulation of employment contradicts the principles of market self-regulation [and] modern personnel management.”

The policy is opposed by Ukraine’s Federation of Trade Unions and has been criticised by a joint European Union-International Labour Organisation project. Some of its critics argue that the government is using Russia’s invasion as an excuse to push for deregulation and the stripping back of social support.

In July, Nataliia Lomonosova of Ukrainian think tank Cedos told openDemocracy that these were long-term policy goals of Zelenskyi’s government, likely aimed at attracting foreign investment.

Law 5371 is not an isolated measure. In July, two other laws were passed: one allows employers to stop paying workers who have been called up to fight, while the other legalises zero-hours contracts. The latter will remain in place even when martial law is lifted.

Another draft bill proposes a drastic overhaul of Ukraine’s labour code itself. This would introduce a maximum 12-hour work day and allow employers to dismiss workers without justification.

The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine is launching a challenge to Law 5371 in the country’s constitutional court, and is appealing to the ILO and other international bodies. They argue that martial law prevented them from calling protests and strikes to oppose the legislation.

ODR Team
ODR Team

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  1. This anti-labor law is just more evidence of Kyiv fascism. Ukraine is a failed-state, deeply in debt, divided along ethnic lines where one ethnicity, the supposed ‘Viking’ Ukrainians from the west, are more privileged than anyone else. Kyiv has lost its mandate to rule and regime change should be forthcoming, either internally or externally from Russia.

    1. And you purport to issue that summary judgement and ukaz in your capacity as what, exactly?

  2. This is a very important part of Biden’s work to turn Ukraine into another US puppet state. I’m sure Zelensky salutes Biden for his service.

  3. It’s all the Russians fault. Putin did it because he is a bad bad man.


  4. Funny how the U. S. is enamoured of Ukraine, but not Yemen. White people inspire Americans. Instead we should be inspired by principles.

    1. Because there are worthy victims and unworthy victims. Worthy victims are those made by our adversaries and can be used to justify increased arms sales. Unworthy ones… well who cares if they are the victims of our own arms.

  5. The US really seems to favour the most undemocratic countries – perhaps it’s because they are easier to corrupt and control.

  6. ukraine is no different than USA, except they lie far less; most recent transparency international rank—USA#1 corrupt on earth….”from the inception of amerika it was informed by ubiquitous sleaze and hustling”. Walter MacDougal
    “European and traditional cultures have a super-ego; american culture does not”. Daniel Dayan “americans are 300 million used car salesmen…” hunter Thompson
    “the cult of sincerity–americans are not sincere; it is a performance”. David Riesman
    “if americans understood the US money and banking system there would be a revolution”. Henry ford
    obviously ford was wrong—as Sacvan Bercovitch wrote 10 years ago:”only in america has nationalism carried with it the christian meaning of the sacred. the revelation of america serves to blight and ultimately preclude the possibility of fundamental social change”

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