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President of Ukraine Poroshenko not so often refuses to sign new bills. The situation with the new Labor Code is exactly that case. The roots of the problem are in the anti-discrimination norms, the list of which was withdrawn at the last moment by the Committee on Social Policy, limiting itself to the general phrase "Discrimination in any form and by any signs is prohibited." Such an approach may negatively affect the cooperation with the European Union. We tried to figure out what the new Labor Code would bring to us.
The Draft Labor Code (bill No. 1658) was adopted in the first reading by the Verkhovna Rada in November 2015. There is also a version with amendments, posted on the website of the profile parliamentary committee. Perhaps, there would be lots of improvements, and most likely, people's deputies will not have time to prepare the final version of the document before the deadline, which is scheduled for June.
The last dispute arose around the anti-discrimination norms of the draft new Labor Code. Initially, article 3 of the draft law should read as follows: "Any discrimination in the workplace, in particular violation of the principle of equal rights and opportunities, direct or indirect restriction of the rights of workers, depending on race, color, political, religious and other beliefs, sex, age, state of health, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, suspicion or presence of HIV / AIDS, family or property status, family responsibilities, residence [...]". This would correspond to the responsibilities Ukraine has assumed by the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, as well as the Action Plan for the liberalization of the visa regime, which Ukraine fulfilled in anticipation of the cherished visa-free regime. According to the European directives, "any direct or indirect discrimination based on religion or belief, limited physical abilities, age or sexual orientation" is prohibited.
People's deputy of the "Popular Front" faction Pavlo Unguryan made the amendment №46 to the draft Labor Code, having decided to "improve" the European norms. His amendment provides for the prohibition of discrimination in any form and by any signs in the world of work without a certain list of these signs. On the evening of March 27, an explanation appeared on the website of the Popular Front: "Committee on Social Policy did not exclude from the text of the draft Labor Code provisions prohibiting discrimination in the world of work."
Different religious issues and their threats
The church sincerely rejoices at Unguryan's amendment. The official representative of the Ukrainian Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Archbishop Evstratii (Zorya), said that Ukrainian politicians "manipulate European-American sentimentality with cliches of gender ideology."
"Unfortunately, the scandal might significantly affect the visa-free regime voting of the EU. There are forces in the European Union that are skeptical about granting Ukraine a visa-free regime. The latest report on Ukraine's progress in implementing the Action Plan directly indicates that The new Labor Code should contain anti-discrimination norms, even if the voting takes place, the introduction of a visa-free regime might be postponed," explained Zoryan Kis, advocacy and partnership Manager for Freedom House representative offices in Ukraine.
The most positive moments in the whole story around the unsuccessful amendments to the Labor Code are the unequivocal statements of Petro Poroshenko, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Gerashchenko, and Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze. "The president would not allow revision of Ukraine's obligations, which we implemented to get visa-free regime. The decision of the parliamentary committee to withdraw the so-called anti-discrimination norms from the draft of the new Labor Code, the head of state considers mistaken and even provocative," the presidential press secretary Svyatoslav Tsegolko said.
The draft of the new Labor Code promises many other innovations that do not affect Ukraine's European integration future, but are no less controversial than Unguryan's proposal. We have selected the most interesting of the innovations:
- The employer can hold a competition when hiring, establishing certain requirements related to the nature of the work;
- The probationary period can be no more than half a year for managers, accountants, 3 months for the rest and a month for working specialties;
- During the probationary period, the employee might be dismissed with a warning within three days;
- The employer might, without the consent of the employee, transfer him to another workplace, unless there are significant changes in the work activity;
- Employees would be able to plan their own working hours themselves, if this is stipulated in the employment contract;
- "As a rule," a "normal" duration of the working week is 40 hours. Daily rest can be not less than 12 hours.
Expressions like "as a rule" and "normal" allow for different interpretations of the new Labor Code by employers. Probably, during the discussions of the last item, there would be still a lot of battles, but the very first in line now are the anti-discrimination norms, the disappearance of which can be costly for Ukraine.