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Belarusian unions use rare chance to rally on 7 October

13 October, 2015For the first time in five years, unions in Belarus were allowed to conduct pickets on 7 October, the World Day for Decent Work.

Despite being denied every year since 2011, unions at last received permission to hold a rally on 7 October in Minsk for one hour. Authorization was granted just days before the presidential elections held on 11 October.

Precarious work predominates in Belarus. In 1999, President Lukashenko adopted Decree No. 29, and since then majority of workers in Belarus have been forced to conclude fixed-term contracts with a duration of one to three years or less. This system shifted almost the entire working population of Belarus to short-term contracts, abolishing permanent employment in the country and adding insecurity and uncertainty to the workers' future.

Three out of four IndustriALL affiliates in Belarus participated in the Minsk rally on 7 October: Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REP), Free Metalworkers' Union (SPM) and Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Miners, Chemical workers, Oil-refiners, Energy, Transport, Construction and other workers (BNP). 

Rally participants adopted a resolution demanding that authorities take measures "to immediately develop a new economic policy that could solve the problems of employment and provide for new jobs, significant wage increases, and a modernization of production facilities".

Independent unions also insisted on abolition of the four notorious presidential decrees (Nos. 29, 9, 5 and 3) that offend human dignity of workers and make it impossible to achieve decent work. 

There has never been any public scrutiny or consultation about decree No. 29 and neither for the later-issued decrees Nos. 9 (2012), 5 (2014) and 3 (2015) which further undermine workers’ freedoms and possibility to protect their rights.

In the 2015 ITUC Global Rights Index, Belarus was listed among the ten worst countries for working people together with China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and the United Arab Emirates.