Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 24

Close to one million coal miners throughout the Russian Federation and Ukraine walked off their jobs yesterday, the first day of an indefinite strike to demand back wages and continued government subsidies for their troubled industry. In Russia, the work stoppage began in the far eastern regions of Primorye and Sakhalin Island and encompassed 87 percent of the country’s mines by day’s end, according to news agency reports. The Russian government adopted a conciliatory approach toward the strike and First Deputy Premier Vladimir Kadannikov agreed to meet with union leader Vitaly Budko. Budko said participation had been higher than expected, with 500,000 of Russia’s 800,000 miners on strike. Boris Yeltsin’s economic advisor Aleksandr Livshits yesterday told media that the Finance Ministry had fully paid off more than $120 million in unpaid salaries owed miners from 1995 and was working on a timetable to address wage arrears for this year. Earlier, Yeltsin had promised to set up a "presidential fund" of at least $200 million to ensure that miners were paid.

In Ukraine, where miners are owed $120 million in back wages, the Donetsk Workers’ Strike Committee adopted a decision to carry out their action in "severe form," completely halting the extraction and loading of coal. Trade union activists in the Donbass said yesterday that full or partial stoppages were occurring in most of the country’s 278 pits, although government officials strongly disputed that claim. Ukrainian prime minister Yevhen Marchuk told a national television audience on the eve of the strike that his government intended to pay the wage arrears without increasing the country’s money supply.

The simultaneous strikes in Russia and Ukraine recall events of 1989, when miners throughout the USSR first joined forces against the Communist leadership. A critical difference today, however, is that the miners say they are eschewing political demands and focusing instead on their empty wallets. (1)

Communist Party Seeks Restoration of Soviet Superpower.