Made in Chernyhiv: Ukrainian factory's female workforce prevent disputed factory takeover

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By Robert Hackwill
Made in Chernyhiv: Ukrainian factory's female workforce prevent disputed factory takeover

The female workforce of a Ukrainian clothing factory has prevented the installation of a new director in a disputed takeover.

Business in Ukraine, which is struggling to put an end to the endemic corruption that has weakened the country for at least the last two decades, is never an easy affair. Commercial law often takes a back seat to sheer force, and many companies find themselves taken over by gangsters who, with connections and often spurious legal justification, simply turn up one day, evict the managing director, and install one of their own in his place.

However this week a group of what police described as “unidentified men” tried to take over an important clothing factory, but were confronted by people power, in the form of its mainly female workforce.

“Elegant” is a company in Chernyhiv, originally founded in 1920 that employs more than 500 people, 93% of them women, making clothes principally for export to countries like France, Poland, Germany, and Sweden.

That made it an especially juicy target for anyone wanting access to valuable foreign exchange.

A group of burly men arrived at the factory to take it over with legal documents they claimed proved their rights of ownership, and tried to enter to force the Director out. Furious at the show of force, the factory’s women rose en masse from their sewing machines to bar their way, and refused them entry to the factory in a noisy and sometimes physical protest. Faced with such a united front, the group had little choice but to back down, and a local TV station caught it all on film.

The head of the local Chamber of Commerce Konstantyn Ivanov said “These raiders, (a term used in Ukraine for these sorts of criminal operations), talked the state registrar in another town into changing the plant director, and this caused the event”.

The disputed change of management now looks likely to enter a legal phase and the circumstances of the attempted takeover remain unclear, but the women have ensured it will be no fait accompli thanks to their actions.