Desperate workers announce hunger strike in Belarus

06.11.2014

On 5 November four fired workers of Bobruisk Factory of Tractor Parts and Units (BZTDiA) announced a two-day hunger strike in their desperate bid to find justice, one week after their arbitrary dismissal.

At least nine activists of the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB) have been sacked. All the dismissed workers are highly skilled and, like the majority of employees in Belarus, were on short-term contracts despite having worked at the plant for many years. Their only fault was that they dared to be members of an independent trade union.

Some of the workers received a formal explanation about their dismissal from the director of the factory saying the reason was workforce optimization. However, at the same time local newspapers are carrying BZTDiA announcements looking for workers with similar or the same skills as those of the dismissed workers.

The hypocrisy of the factory management forced the workers to use all possible means in looking for justice including by writing an open letter to the President of the country Alexander Lukashenko two weeks ago. In the letter, workers highlight their union discrimination, but also say that the factory's difficulties are the result of the discriminatory position of the management.  Highly qualified trade union personnel are subject to threats and dismissals and eventually replaced with less qualified workers who need years to reach the level of their sacked colleagues.

When the desperate workers learnt that their letter would not be treated seriously, and would most likely would turn up in the letterbox of the director who fired them, four of them decided to go on a two-day hunger strike. The trade union is trying to provide all possible support.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary says: “Our solidarity support goes to the striking workers. The short-term contract system in Belarus is not only bad for workers and democracy, but also damaging the economic stability of the enterprises and consequently harming the entire economy of the country.”