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Global unions call to support independent union movement in Belarus

17 August, 2017IndustriALL Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation launch a LabourStart campaign in support of independent trade unions in Belarus.

15 days have passed since the Belarusian authorities began an unprovoked campaign against independent trade unions and their leadership in Belarus. Two union leaders, Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik from Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union (REP), an IndustriALL affiliate, and also an affiliate of ITUC through Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, are under criminal investigation and may face up to seven years in prison. Ihar Komlik remains in custody since his detention on 2 August.

Visit LabourStart and demand the release Ihar Komlik and the dropping of all groundless accusations against REP leadership. https://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=3512

Both union leaders are now under investigation for alleged large-scale tax evasion. However, the accusations of unpaid taxes refer to the solidarity support received by the union in 2011, and cannot be treated as private funds. In reality the accusations are groundless and aim at undermining the union in retaliation for their leaders' active civil position and the work to protect the social and economic interests of the working people in Belarus. 

One of the recent episodes was the REP’s active participation in mass protests against a presidential decree imposing a tax on the unemployed, dubbed in Belarus the decree “on social parasites”. Already then REP leadership was subject to reprisals. Fedynich was accused of taking part in an unauthorized, illegal "March of angry Belarusians" on 17 February in Minsk and repeated violation of the law "On Mass Events”. The authorities then fined him for US$ 640.

In their letter to the Belarusian president IndustriALL and ITUC called the attacks on trade union leaders and their unions by the Belarusian authorities, an “interference in the internal affairs of the trade unions, which is a grave violation of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association.”

Gennady Fedynch is a prominent union leader, who has been chairman of Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union (REP) since the beginning of the nineties. Together with a few other unions from former Soviet Union in 1999, REP was recognized by global trade unions as a free and democratic organization, and joined the International Metalworkers’ Federation, predecessor of IndustriALL.

At the founding Congress of IndustriALL Global Union in June 2012 Gennady was elected as titular member of the Executive Committee of IndustriALL. Four years later at the 2nd World Congress of IndustriALL in Brazil his colleagues from the CIS region re-elected him as substitute executive committee member, representing unions of the region.

Ihar Komlik is also not a stranger to the trade union movement. An engineer and labour lawyer by background, he worked in the design bureau at the radio and electronics plant “Planar” from 1994 to 2004. In the same time he was also elected as working chairman of REP local union organization there. Since 2010 he has lead REP Minsk city union organization and also works as REP chief accountant.

IndustriALL Global Union appeals to all affiliates to support the LabourStart campaign https://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=3512 and demand the immediate release of Ihar Komlik, and an end to his and Gennady Fedynich’s criminal prosecution.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary said,

“We call on all our affiliates to help us defend our affiliate Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union and its leaders, Ihar Komlik and Gennady Fedynich, in Belarus. They are only guilty of not staying silent at continuously falling living and working standards of the working people in Belarus. Truly independent unions make life better in every country. Send your demands to Lukashenko’s regime today, let’s stop this attack on independent trade unions and their leaders in Belarus."

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said,

“These actions constitute state interference in the activities of independent trade unions. They have interrupted the work of the two unions’ secretariats and created an atmosphere of repression and fear. Belarus must bring its legislation into conformity with its international obligations and implement in full the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry, including on external aid, and cease using existing legal provisions like these to harass trade union leaders.”