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The European Court Has Allowed Aviators to Strike. Are Railroad Workers, Doctors, and Civil Servants Next In Turn?

Employees of Ukrainian airlines obtained an opportunity to express indignation openly with actions of employers and to strike. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case "Tymoshenko and others v. Ukraine" made a stand for aviators, while local servants of Themis previously thought that aviation industry is not a place for the labour rights protection. Even in connection with long term arrears of wages, inadequate working conditions, etc.

It is to be recalled that Ukrainian courts deprived Aerosvit employees of the right to protest. People, who were owed wages for a long time, could not defend their rights in court. The enterprise became bankrupt, and now they have to make every effort to get their earnings.

It should be noted that in Ukraine there are two legislative acts that regulate the right to strike. One of them is the Law "On Transport" – prohibits employees in the aviation industry to strike, the other, "On the Procedure for Settling Collective Labour Disputes", does not contain such a prohibition. Local judges have used the act that prohibits. And it cost the state budget 20 thousand EUR. Because the Court found that such a prohibition is a violation of the right to freedom of association.

The Chairman of the Trade Union of Cabin Crew Members of Aerosvit Veniamin Tymoshenko, who was one of the claimants to the European Court of Human Rights, believes that the ECHR has restored justice, because strike is the only instrument of employees’ self-defence without government participation. But the state tried to get rid of this instrument. “Now the workers by themselves under the threat of shutdown will solve their social problems, and will restore the legitimacy of their enterprises," – Mr. Tymoshenko said.

However, to implement the decision of the European Court the state should change the legislation. Maxim Shcherbatyuk, the Program Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, comments: "The European Court of Human Rights in the case “Tymoshenko and others v. Ukraine” has determined that the legislation governing the strikes in Ukraine is vague, opaque and consequently poor. Actually, this is the law that allowed restriction of the right of the employees of transport industry to strike, which was the subject matter of the present case. This led to the breach by Ukraine of its international obligations. The European Court in this case recognized the importance of the protection by Convention of the right to strike, particularly for airlines’ employees; and that among other things can result in strengthening of the rights protection in all the countries of Europe”.

The judgment of the ECHR in this case could be a precedent not only for Ukraine but also for Europe. For a long time the trade unions of railroad workers, doctors, and civil servants were trying to recognize the strike a legal instrument to protect labour rights. And they met with stubborn opposition from governments. The case "Tymoshenko and others v. Ukraine" can be the basis for systematic changes in this area.

Photo from the event 

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The case was supported by the Strategic Litigations Fund of Ukraine of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. The lawyers from Counsellors took active participation in the case.

The platform for strategic judicial protection was established to expand the use of strategic judicial defence and its improvement as a mechanism for human rights protection, and to increase the influence of civil society on legal policy. The platform was created to unite the efforts of NGOs, lawyers and law firms working in the field of strategic judicial defence. For more information please see http://precedent.in.ua

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