Ukrainians threaten pay delay protest

October 4, 1996

Ukrainian university lecturers and students have called for the dismissal of education minister Mykhaylo Zhurovsky and the adoption of an "emergency budget" to save the country's higher education system and pay their salaries and grants. They want a law making officials who delay salaries and grants liable to prosecution.

The demands were voiced at a rally in Donetsk, organised by the regional council of trade unions of teachers and scientists, but reflect opinion nationwide. Salary hold-ups have become common for state-paid staff in the post-Soviet countries. The Ukrainians' protest was fuelled by Ukraine's switch from its temporary quasi-currency, the karbovanets, to what is hailed as the "real and fully convertible" hrivna.

But incompetence, or worse, seems also to be involved: hence the demands to introduce criminal liability for non-payment of salaries and to annul various "instructions and resolutions" issued by Mr Zhurovsky which, the protesters maintain, were "illegal".

Rally organiser Oleksandr Hladkoskok has said that if the demands are not met, "days of protest" will be held. Six years ago student protests in the capital, Kiev, forced the resignation of the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic government.

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