<!—:en—>Ukraine Sees a Phenomenon Rare for Europe – Poverty-Stricken Employees<!—:—>

The economic monopolization and appalling conditions of business development – both domestic and foreign – result in technological underdevelopment and low demand for labor. As a consequence we see a phenomenon rare for Europe – poverty-stricken employees, the magazine Correspondent writes.

The magazine has two pieces of news from the labor market – a good one and not so good one. The good news is that the German concern REWE Group has opened its 24th Billa grocery supermarket in Ukraine. The bad news is that the company offers extraordinarily low salaries – about UAH 2,000, i.e. a third lower that the average in the country.

The journalist states that the answer to the question of why the global giant does not want to pay decent salaries is obvious – there is no reason to pay more.

The companies with yearly revenue in the millions – the large grocery retail networks, agricultural giants and even transnational corporations that have settled in Ukraine – keep hundreds of thousands of low-paid employees, the magazine explains.

The main reason for the low salaries is the fact that the Ukrainians agree to almost free labor due to the shortage for jobs which results from the narrowing of business activity. According to the State Statistic Service data 70,000 companies were shut down in 2012.

The second reason is the high fiscal pressure on the social safety nets and unemployment insurance, Correspondent writes. In Ukraine these rates are two times higher than, for example, in Germany. The third reason is the low labor efficiency and technical underdevelopment of domestic companies that yield a small wage share of the products' total value.

The head of the Committee of Economists of Ukraine Andrei Novak has stated the fourth reason is the low minimum wage. “The private sector is oriented onto the official minimum salary (UAH 1,143). It is the same even at the very successful companies”, the expert states.

The magazine gives another good example: Chernovitsi Garment Factory Arnica manufactures lingerie for the demanding European women of fashion. The world-known German brand Triumph International – is the factory customer.

It is a lucky break to get into the most profitable world market, the journalist writes, but even such favorable circumstances do not promote the factory tailors’ prosperity. On the average the salary of each of the 300 employees is about UAH 2,000, i.e. a third lower than the average in the country. This troubling situation is widespread in Ukraine. At the better part of the large and huge companies, the salary of the employees is extremely low despite the fact that the employers get a very good profit. For example, Lugansk company Alfa which supplies the automobile filters to Germany, USA, Poland, and South Korea pays its employees about UAH 1,800 a month.

The personnel of the grocery retail network ATB-Market is in the same situation. Despite the rapid growth (the network turnover in 2007 was USD 880,000,000 and in 2012 – over USD 2,200,000,000) the network offers its employees a salary of UAH 1,700 a month. As to what does not allow the companies to pay their employees more and how the corruption and fiscal pressure affect the companies’ opportunities, read the article in the new magazine Correspondent No 2 issued on January 18, 2013.

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<!—:en—>Interview with Dirk Feiertag, Candidate for Mayor of Leipzig <!—:—><!—:de—>Interview mit Dirk Feiertag, Oberbürgermeister Kandidat der Stadt Leipzig<!—:—><!—:ru—>Interview with Dirk Feiertag, Candidate for Mayor of Leipzig <!—:—>

«I’m not a moralist»

The lawyer Dirk Feiertag, 33, wants to become Leipzig’s mayor on January 27, 2013. In this interview, the nonpartisan candidate speaks about the defrauding of Hartz-IV recipients, ticket-free public transport, and his chances of winning the election.

English-Team:

Mr. Feiertag, if you win the election, you will be the youngest mayor of Leipzig since the reunification. Are you not afraid that you won’t be taken seriously?

Dirk Feiertag:

Absolutely not. I have learned my craft. I am a lawyer and know how the administration functions legally. Another point is: I’ve been very active in politics for many years. I know how to work well in a large group.

English-Team:

What qualities must a mayor bring to the table?

Dirk Feiertag:

The mayor should have management skills, be in touch with his or her constituents, and ensure that the administration is run lawfully.

English-Team:

It’s always emphasized that you don’t want to be part of the «Leipziger Clique.» Don’t you think that this will happen sooner or later regardless?

Dirk Feiertag:

I have been politically active since the age of 13. I grew up during the youth environmental movement. I also deliberately chose my profession as a lawyer in order to fight against misconduct in the administration and to push for more social engagement from the government towards greener living. And I have remained true to these principles all these years—and I will certainly do so as mayor.

English-Team:

When did you make the decision to run for office?

Dirk Feiertag:

I have become increasingly annoyed in recent years on the city council. I’ve seen that there are not just individual areas of misconduct, but extensive ones. For example, take the cost of accommodation for Hartz-IV recipients. Behind the scenes, it’s openly accepted that it is cheaper to hire lawyers who are willing to help the few unemployment (ALG-II) recipients who want to sue for their rights. The majority of Hartz-IV recipients are not confident enough to do this, however, and therefore receive less money for rent and have to pay the difference from their small unemployment allowance. This is saving the city a lot of money. And that can not be.

English-Team:

One of your campaign lines is: The city administration must be transparent. A nice slogan, but how should this requirement be implemented?

Dirk Feiertag:

Transparency means that every citizen must have the opportunity to go to the city and to say: About this topic, I would like to be informed. The municipality must then tell the citizen why they decided as they did on a particular case and let her or him look through the administrative file. Only those with full access to information can take part as citizens.

English-Team:

Isn’t a general political cynicism responsible for the fact that only a few people are interested in local politics?

Dirk Feiertag:

Political cynicism arises from people thinking: We can’t change anything anyway. What the city of Leipzig has called up until now citizen participation is actually a PR campaign. In the future, there must be proper public participation forums where people realize that they can really talk to each other. If we take citizens seriously and they realize that their suggestions are implemented, then this promotes an interest in politics.

English-Team:

You want to eliminate tickets from the public local transportation sector. How is this going to be financed?

Dirk Feiertag:

I want to eliminate the tickets, but not the transportation costs in the Public Short-Range Transit (ÖPNV). To pay for transportation through buying tickets, the way it is now, is more expensive in the end than to have a ticket-free set-up. All of this would be financed by contributions from Leipzig’s citizens and companies, who would profit from a ticket-free ÖPNV, and from tourists. Meaning, we would simply finance the short-range transit differently through a kind of tax.

English-Team:

What advantages would this have for the city of Leipzig?

Dirk Feiertag:

It would be very innovative. Leipzig would become a beacon in Europe, which in turn would lead to higher prominence of the city. We wouldn’t need any ticket machines, ticket inspectors, or a ticket sales department. This could effectively save money and simultaneously be more convenient. And more people would get out of their climate-damaging cars and onto the train.

English-Team:

A lot of car drivers won’t be too enthusiastic about that.

Dirk Feiertag:

I don’t want to be a moralist either. I ride my bike, walk a lot, use the ÖPNV quite often, but I also have a car. Everybody has to decide for themselves what’s appropriate. That’s also what I promote: intermixed and diverse traffic participation, not a competition.

English-Team:

Change of subject: Leipzig has 40,000 immigrants. What are you going to do for this population, if you’re elected mayor?

Dirk Feiertag:

There needs to be more attention to the needs of those groups. People with a migration background are often treated unfairly at the employment office in Leipzig. I know this from working as a lawyer of social law. I want to act against this persistent discrimination in the administration. When you think of the people that come as refugees to Germany: the living conditions in the refugee homes are, in my opinion, inhumane. I will insist that basically all of these refugees are put into regular homes.

English-Team:

Like Amazon, a lot of foreign companies have been settling in Leipzig. Do you want to create more incentives for international businesses in the future?

Dirk Feiertag:

Above all, I’m committed to strengthening the middle class, because it has strong roots in Leipzig. I have an ambivalent relationship with international companies like Amazon. I aim for the social and ecological development of the city. This also concerns jobs. As a lawyer I’ve experienced that the jobs at Amazon have substandard wages. A lot of Amazon employees receive welfare, and I don’t think this is socially sustainable. As mayor, I would also insist that the city doesn’t co-finance Amazon.

English-Team:

That means you are skeptical towards such large companies?

Dirk Feiertag:

If they operate under fair conditions, then of course I’m glad. But I’m against catering to companies – be it with the exemption from the parking space tax or an inexpensive industry space – that, after one or two years, declare bankruptcy or migrate to the next country.

English-Team:

Apropos migration: More and more young people are leaving Leipzig because they got a job in the western regions. How are you going to steer away from this trend?

Dirk Feiertag:

What the city of Leipzig can do, for example, is reach out to university graduates – especially in the technology sector – and ask them if they want to stay in Leipzig. We could offer mediation between our cooperating partners, especially start-ups. One can establish success right here in Leipzig.

English-Team:

Finally, let’s be honest! As a candidate without a political party, do you really have a chance to win the election?

Dirk Feiertag:

In Markranstädt, right next to Leipzig, a few weeks ago a candidate without a party was able to win the election for mayor. In East Germany especially, a lot of candidates for the position of mayor are freely elected. A lot of citizens are sick of political parties and want solution-oriented politics. And this works much better with an independent candidate. Therefore, I think my chances are pretty good.

Interview by Gina Apitz, translated by Amber Schalke