Edi­tors’ Note

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees in Ukraine, in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, works badly for both sides.

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents -

From the em­ploy­ers’ view­point, la­bor laws are stacked in fa­vor of em­ploy­ees, an ex­ten­sion of the Soviet men­tal­ity of guar­an­teed life­time em­ploy­ment. Such rights didn’t re­ally mean much in a state-owned econ­omy gov­erned by a to­tal­i­tar­ian regime. The old say­ing springs to mind: “We pre­tend to work and they pre­tend to pay us.” A dy­namic, free-mar­ket econ­omy re­quires a com­pet­i­tive work­place, where em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees each have cod­i­fied but rea­son­able rights. The em­ployer wants to hire the best, fire the worst and set pay and work­ing con­di­tions. The em­ployee wants the right to com­pete for the best job and best pay, to have le­gal pro­tec­tions that govern work hours, pre­vent dis­crim­i­na­tion and, ide­ally, pro­vide for pen­sion and other ben­e­fits. But this is not how it works in Ukraine. The 1971 la­bor code still in ef­fect (with mod­est changes) is loaded with such un­rea­son­able pro­tec­tions that, com­bined with con­fis­ca­tory taxes, em­ploy­ers by­pass hir­ing em­ploy­ees of­fi­cially al­to­gether, leav­ing them with­out any le­gal rights and ren­der­ing la­bor unions prac­ti­cally use­less. In the pub­lic sec­tor, an­tic­i­pa­tion is high over how a new civil ser­vice code will work start­ing in May. Cur­rently, from the em­ploy­ees’ side, wages are low and rules sti­fle cre­ativ­ity. From the em­ploy­ers’ side, it’s im­pos­si­ble to pro­vide ef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment ser­vice when laws make it so dif­fi­cult to fire any­one and bud­gets are so tiny. A case in point is Ukrza­l­iznyt­sia, the state rail­way mo­nop­oly. It is over­staffed by as many as 100,000 em­ploy­ees, in a case of grand feath­erbed­ding. But they keep their jobs be­cause no­body wants the so­cial un­rest or strike that could come from fir­ing so many peo­ple at once.

Clearly, a bet­ter bal­ance of rights is needed be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees.

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