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Dismissals and threats against Belarusian steelworkers

22 February, 2021Since August last year, 200 workers have joined the newly established local branch of Belarusian Independent Union (BITU) at Byelorussian Steel Works (BMZ). In response, union activists have been threatened with dismissals and faced union busting. 

BITU members at BMZ report threats of dismissals, including fixed-term contracts not being extended.

On 21 January, BMZ fired the local union chairman Vadzim Laptsik and Dzmitry Yafremau, member of the union auditing commission. Yafremau was fired for being absent from work, despite a police certificate proving his arrest for the August protests.

Hanna Kalupakho, one of the eleven founding members, was asked to resign in August and was subsequently fired on 1 February.

The local union of BITU at BMZ has still not been registered by authorities, nor recognized by the employer.

 “We need international solidarity as our members at BMZ are subject to intimidation and reprisals. The workers wanted to enjoy freedom of association and establish a local BITU union, but in response, BMZ management decided to fire them or punish in other ways. And instead of protecting its citizens’ human and workers’ rights, Belarusian authorities have launched criminal investigation against three BITU members at BMZ,” says Maksim Pazniakou, BITU chairman.

On 1 February, three BMZ workers, Ihar Pavarau, Aliaksandr Babrou and Yauhen Hovar, were sentenced to 2,5 and 3 years in jail respectively, for a strike at BMZ in August 2020. They were accused of organizing, preparing or actively participating in actions that grossly violate public order, on 17 August they had blocked the road in a protest against election fraud and police violence.

In his letter to the BMZ management, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said: 

“IndustriALL strongly denounces the prosecution of protesters fighting for democracy and freedom in Belarus and condemns BMZ’s gross violations of human rights and labour rights. 
“We call on BMZ to reinstate all workers who have been unfairly dismissed, to stop harassing and prosecuting union members, and to engage in genuine dialogue with the BITU.”

BMZ produces wire, steel cords, pipes and other steel products. The company supplies their products to a large number of customers in tire and rubber industries.

PHOTO credits: Sputnik Belarus and TUT.BY