How and Why Ukrainian authorities Deprived Public Employees of their Salaries in Occupied Kherson Region?

Day of City in Nova Kakhovka, September 2021. Photo: Oleg Baturin

After orders of senior public officials of Kherson region, Ukrainian authorities started depriving public employees on temporary occupied territories of their salaries. In some communities, it leads to a wave of dismissals. At the same time, representatives of Ukrainian authorities deny that they issued written or oral orders to suspend labor contracts with employees on occupied territories. They accuse their direct employers.

The Center of Journalist Investigations (the CJI) uncovered what was going on and what outcomes would follow.

Suspending contracts in manual mode

«When you paid me a salary, I understood that I was needed. Now I will have to obtain Russian passport and look for a job. I need money for living», as told public employee of one local council on occupied territory of Kherson region (Left Bank of Dnipro River) to her supervisors, when she heard that her labor contract was suspended from June 1, 2024.

All Ukrainian public employees, residing on temporary occupied territories, heard about suspension of their labor contracts until the end of martial law during last months. Many of them were shocked.

Director of education institution in occupied Skadovsk raion told that senior managers of Kherson Oblast State Administration «forced» heads of local military administrations. In their turn, those heads «forced» managers of their educational departments to «force» managers of schools, kindergartens and other institutions to suspend labor contracts with employees on occupied territories and suspend payment of their salaries.

«Everything was done «in manual mode», without formal orders. Some directors of educational institutions forced their employees to leave their positions. It was done on the eve of summer vacations when teachers usually received their vacation reimbursement and material assistance. Teachers were told that they would get neither reimbursement nor assistance. Teachers understood that their services were not needed anymore and submitted applications for dismissal. Some of them decided to work for Russian «schools» on occupied territories. Russian occupants desperately need teachers. They sometimes appointed people without any educational background as teachers», as told our source in occupied Skadovsk raion.

Останній дзвоник у захопленому ліцею села Новоолександрівка Генічеського району, травень 2024 року. Фото з окупаційних пабліків

«Last school bell» ceremony in occupied lyceum in Novooleksandrivka village of Genichesk raion, May 2024. Photo from Russian occupation social media

Teachers from temporary occupied Genichesk raion told the CJI that their supervisors proposed them three options: to leave occupied territories within 24 hours; to resign or to accept suspension of contract relations until the end of the martial law.

«Everybody was shocked as Ukrainian authorities promised them any support and persuaded that they would not be left without assistance. Ukrainian authorities broke their promises. It has been hard to hear that armed Russian soldiers with local collaborators forced Ukrainian teachers to cooperate. People hoped that the Ukrainian state would support them and rejected Russian proposals. They received small downtime money from the Ukrainian authorities. It would be far more difficult to survive without them», as told the CJI teachers from Genichesk raion.

«Last school bell» ceremony in occupied school in Genichesk raion, May 2023. Photo from Russian occupation social media

«There were no oral orders to suspend labor contracts»

Representatives of one community on occupied territory of Kherson region reported that orders to suspend labor contracts were issued orally, without official paper or electronic documents.

«Those orders were followed by instructions and algorithms of actions. But they did not have any signs of official orders and were not formally authorized or confirmed. Article 60 of the Constitution of Ukraine says that Ukrainian citizens are not obliged to perform obviously illegal orders», as noted those representatives. They addressed Kherson Oblast Military Administration and other Ukrainian authorities.

Their official answers were surprising. Dmytro Butrii, First Deputy Head of Kherson Oblast Military Administration, answered that neither local Ukrainian military administrations nor regional military administration issued orders to suspend labor contracts with employees of Ukrainian educational and cultural institutions, residing on temporary occupied territories.

«First school bell» ceremony in lyceum # 8 of Nova Kakhovka, September 2018. Photo from social media

The same answer was given by Olga Altunina, representative on rights of citizens suffering from the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, within the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

«As letters from Kherson Oblast Military Administration from May 21, 2024 and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine from May 28, 2024 indicate, department of education and science of Kherson Oblast Military Administration did not issue any recommendations and instructions on suspension of labor contracts with employees of educational institutions. There were no oral orders to heads of educational and cultural institutions about suspension of labor contracts with their employees», as reported Olga Altunina.

At the same time, Olga Altunina and Dmytro Butrii reminded about the Law of Ukraine «About Organization of Labor Relations under Martial Law» adopted on March 15, 2022. Article 13 of the Law stipulates the possibility to suspend labor contract under the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

«The labor contract can be suspended upon the initiative of one party for the period not longer than the period of the martial law. In case of renewal of the suspended labor contact, the employer must inform the employee about the need to return to work 10 calendar days before the renewal», as quotes the Law Olga Altunina.

Olga Altunina. Photo:

Payments for vacations

However, as our sources insist, there were orders to suspend labor relations and deprive public employees of their salaries. It is confirmed by heads of public institutions on occupied territory of Kherson region. It is also confirmed by Oleksandr Prokudin, the Head of Kherson Oblast Military Administration. He admitted that it has been current governmental policy.

«We were told about suspension of labor relations at any governmental meetings. We were told that it was governmental policy. It was expected decision as the government has already deprived doctors and employees of cultural institutions of financial support. Now they reached teachers and others», as told the CJI director of educational institution in Kakhovka raion, temporary occupied by the Russian Federation.

She says that she insisted that all teachers, residing on occupied territory, must have received payments for vacation and material assistance. Labor contracts were suspended with five teachers on the basis of order of local department of education and order of the director of school. Four teachers of retirement age were asked to write voluntary applications to suspend labor contracts.

«We delayed this step as long as possible. We are sorry. We punish people for their decision to reside on occupied territory and force them to take further decisions to survive there. Maybe, they will be forced to receive Russian passports and some «assistance» from Russian occupants», as added the source of the CJI from Kakhovka raion.

Graduation ceremony in Khrestivka school, 2018. Screenshot of video

Other public officials of local self-government councils in occupied Kherson region emphasized that suspension of the labor contract was not about «firing people». It was about «freezing labor relations». However, suspension period will not be added to the social insurance period. As an outcome, it may negatively influence people’s pensions.

«Employers are in a hurry to suspend labor relations. As a result, they sometimes violate labor legislation. For example, there are cases in Kherson region when labor contracts are suspended with employees of local self-government bodies who hold elected positions. The respective Law and instructions clearly stipulate that it is not allowed to do with deputy heads of local communities and other elected positions. There are also cases when some employees, residing on occupied territories, did receive all payments before the suspension of their contracts whereas other employees – did not! It seems it has been punishment for those employees whom their supervisors did not like.

Then, people know that some public officials in local self-government bodies receive 110 thousand UAH per month or even more. This amount is sufficient to pay downtime payments to ten teachers on occupied territories», as think sources of the CJI.

Opening of the monument of Vladimir Lenin in Olgyne village of Kakhovka raion, June 2024. Photo from Russian social media accounts.

Salary – at the expense of aggressor state

Cases of suspension of labor contracts have been also found on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. One of their causes has been Russian shelling of buildings, working places. Employers call their inability to provide safe working conditions as the reason for suspension of labor contracts. Some employees succeeded in overturning these orders of their employers.

«The right of employers to suspend labor relations as an outcome of Russian aggression is not absolute right. In order to apply this legal norm, employer should not be able to provide the work to employee whereas an employee should not be able to perform the work. As an example, it is related to the situation when it is impossible to assign an employee another work or to involve an employee into distant work», as says the Ruling of the Supreme Court of Ukraine from October 18, 2023.

Day of City in Nova Kakhovka, September 2021. Photo: Oleg Baturin

However, one should not expect massive appeals of people on occupied territories to Ukrainian courts.

Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities often recall that full reimbursement of non-received salaries and compensations should be exercised by aggressor state.

«However, there are no effective instruments to force aggressor state to do it, as summarized Ukrainian public officials from occupied Kherson region to the CJI. – Yes, we do hope that they will appear in the future. But it is useless for people who are deprived of their salaries now. They need money to live right now».