It is our duty to support the trade unions in Ukraine

International issues Even before the war broke out, the situation for trade unionists in Ukraine was strained. We must maintain our support for the Ukrainian unions, writes Oscar Ernerot from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO).

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Just a couple of hours away, there is an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. Instead of everyday life with schools, jobs and leisure activities, people are forced to take shelter, fight or flee. Ukraine is a young democracy, which has opted out of totalitarian rule and become a threat to Putin and his fellow travellers.

Russia is conducting a war in violation of international law and rules in order to obstruct and suppress ideas of democratic rights for the citizens of Ukraine but also for the Russian people.

Together with trade union organisations around the world, LO and its affiliates are working intensively to support our Ukrainian colleagues. Now European and international cooperation is more important than ever.

Support in both the short and long term
In the acute phase, trade union support must be humanitarian. LO and its affiliates are giving down-to-earth and practical support through fundraising and financial contributions to trade union organisations for the purchase of food, water and medicines, or helping with transportation and places to sleep for those fleeing. In addition, through protests against Putin’s Russia and manifestations in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

In the long term, it is important that we continue, as we have done for a number of years, to support the Ukrainian unions who work hard to strengthen the rights of Ukrainian workers.

The workplace represents more than just an income. By maintaining the networks, we are safeguarding the basis for continued trade union struggle for democracy and for faster reconstruction on the day peace finally returns.

The trade unions – for both work and democracy
It is no coincidence that it is extremely dangerous to engage in trade union activity in dictatorships, something the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and LO have many examples of. In the Donbas region trade union leaders have previously been kidnapped and trade union organisation has been banned. The trade unions in Ukraine have great reason to feel threatened by the Russian invasion. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to be unionised, no matter where in the world you are.

The shared strength of trade unions not only forms the basis for better working conditions, but also gives the freedom and opportunity to shape society, which means labour market conditions but also an inclusive society based on peace and equality.

A starting point for LO’s international work is the right of all peoples to self-determination and to live free from aggression and totalitarianism under a government of their choice. The trade union organisations in Ukraine are made up of people in a state of war and at the moment, for obvious reasons, are not able to conduct structured resistance to Putin’s attack on democracy.

LO was founded as a democracy movement and based on international solidarity. We still stand firmly on that foundation today. It is our duty to join forces with fellow trade unionists in need. This struggle belongs to everyone who wants to uphold freedom against oppression and promote peace.

Oscar Ernerot
Head of the International Department, Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO)