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Belarusian trade unions remain liquidated one year later

3 August, 2023It has been one year since the Belarusian Supreme Court liquidated the country’s independent trade unions. On 18 July last year the Supreme Court decided to liquidate and dissolve the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP), and its four members, three of them affiliated to IndustriALL - the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU or BNP), the Union of Radio and Electronics Workers (REP), the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB), and the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers (SPM). The Court declared trade unions as extremist organizations.

Throughout the last year IndustriALL has strongly condemned the court’s decision and does not recognize it. IndustriALL considers the decision null and void and continues to support its affiliates. In a letter to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) director general, IndustriALL stated that it will continue to assist and fully support the independent trade unions in Belarus to guarantee organizational continuity. IndustriALL has also called for the release of imprisoned trade union leaders.

In November, IndustriALL’s Executive Committee adopted a resolution condemning the dissolution of the independent trade unions, demanding the immediate release of all trade unionists in Belarus.

In June this year global unions, trade union activists and delegates who attended the 111th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva gathered at the Broken Chair to call for the immediate release of imprisoned Belarusian trade unionists and an end to the repression of workers’ rights. Delegates at the demonstration demanded that all charges against the imprisoned leaders be dropped and that international organizations are given access to visit the country.

Earlier that week, the ILC adopted a resolution under Article 33 of the ILO constitution, challenging Belarus’ continued disregard for workers’ rights and the arrest of countless trade unionists. Article 33 tackles non-compliance with a report of an ILO commission of inquiry. This commission was established in 2003 regarding violations of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. This adoption means that member states will take all the possible steps to ensure that Belarus implements the recommendations of that enquiry. This could involve sanctions but also support for those persecuted by the regime and their struggle for international workers’ rights.

IndustriALL's assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says,

“IndustriALL is committed to supporting and assisting independent Belarusian unions in their struggle to operate under any circumstances. We are fighting against a dictator and are united with the workers in Belarus. We will not give up until the political hostages are freed. This is a fight for their democracy and for fundamental workers’ rights. The ILC decision on Article 33 is an important step forward for us. Our struggle continues and we will win.”