18 January, 2019Through a meeting with high-level officials on 16 January 2019 in Brussels, Belgium, IndustriALL Global Union, IndustriAll European Trade Union, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) through its Pan-European European Regional Council (PERC) and European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) brought concerns of deteriorating environment for democracy and fundamental rights in Belarus to the European Union authorities.
Representatives of the international trade unions were received by Luc Devigne, Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia and Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia and OSCE and his team.
The union delegation expressed their anger and concerns over absence of democratic standards in Belarus resulting in demolition of civil society, including independent trade unions.
Belarussian authorities systematically deny registration of structures of independent trade unions under invented pretexts in violation of national legislation as well as international standards.
For years Belarus remains under special scrutiny almost at every International Labour Conference. The ILO Committee on the Application of Standards cited Belarus in special paragraph of its report a number of times. This is a procedure reserved for consistent and serious violations of labour rights, including those enshrined in core labour standards.
"We expect that the European Union will continue to put human, trade union and workers' rights first in their conversations with the Belarusian government. The situation in Belarus is highly critical and the European Union has the key in hand to change the reality for Belarusian people and workers", said Luc Triangle, General Secretary of IndustriAll European Trade Union.
The international organizations raised the “Trade union case” where in an unfair trial and in the absence of convincing evidence, two union leaders from Belarus Radio & Electronics Industry Workers’ Union, Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik, were convicted for large-scale tax evasion and ordered to pay a large fine. Both are subjects to a four-year suspended imprisonment, and a ban on holding senior positions for five years.
In their joint letter, ITUC, IndustriALL, ETUC and IndustriAll Europe wrote to Vice-President Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union condemned this court’s verdict, and the decision to reject the appeal.
The international union organizations believe the verdict is politically motivated and done in retaliation to the union for its active stance within the society. The verdict is an attempt to seed fear among activists and block them from resisting the inhuman Decree “On promotion of employment of population” also known as the Decree on social parasites.
Fedynich and Komlik became prisoners in their flats, their moving around is undermined, and certain hours of the day, on weekends and public holidays they cannot go out.
“They are clearly political prisoners of conscience,” said Kemal Özkan, “We once again urged the EU to raise the issue of political prisoners in Belarus with the authorities of the country and support our demand to review the verdict, and provide a full and unconditional acquittal for Fedynich and Komlik.”
The international unions expect that respect to democracy, human and trade union rights must be part of the priorities of the intended Partnership between the EU and Belarus, and jurisprudence of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights must be among the references.
In the meantime, as of 1 January 2019, the notorious Decree 1 entered into force. It contains elements of forced labour and creates supplementary ways to manipulate workers’ rights in addition to fixed-term contracts system. In order to implement the new decree a special data base was set up, however a lot of concerns are risen due to its non-transparency.