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IndustriALL calls on the ILO and the EU to intervene in Belarus

2 March, 2021As the entire Belarusian independent union movement is under threat, a stronger involvement and intervention by the international community is urgently needed in Belarus.

IndustriALL Global Union is again strongly denouncing the continuing violations of fundamental human and workers’ rights, attacks on independent unions and repression of union leaders and activists, in breach of international labour standards and norms, ratified by Belarus.

The recent police raids on the offices and homes of trade union activists clearly show that authorities are trying to intimidate everyone in order to discourage people from fighting for democracy and human rights.

During the brutal search of the office of IndustriALL affiliate, the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REP), police found a shotgun cartridge, which the union leadership claims had been planted to justify further repression. The find may result in allegations of terrorist activity with lifetime imprisonment or death penalty. Given the systematic violations of human rights and the lack of justice in Belarus, REP chair Vasily Zavadsky left the country to escape a very likely illegal detention.

IndustriALL affiliate Free Metalworkers' Union (SPM) has pointed out that employment contracts at Belarusian companies include clauses prohibiting participation in protests, freedom of opinion and its free expression; unprecedented violations of human and workers’ rights. This is the case of the large state-owned Minsk Automobile Plant, that employs 15,000 workers and exports heavy vehicles to dozens of countries worldwide.

Trade union rights and freedoms, including freedom of association, the right to organize union activities independently, are no longer guaranteed. IndustriALL affiliate Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU), reports that authorities deny registration of local unions, including the one at the Byelorussian Steel Works.

In a letter to the ILO, IndustriALL calls for urgent intervention, adopting all possible measures to stop the interference in trade union affairs by law enforcement agencies, and to end repression of independent trade union leaders and activists.

In the joint letter, IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union calls on the European Commission to once again review the current political and economic relationship with Belarus and use all possible measures to stop the anti-democratic and violent acts, to put an end to attacks on the independent trade union movement, and to demand the immediate release of all independent trade union leaders, activists and workers, and withdrawal of all charges against them.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches says:

“The independent and democratic trade unions play a critical role in promoting democracy, constructing a democratic governance and society in all countries around the world, and Belarus is no exception. At this important and difficult time of Belarusian pro-democracy uprising followed by repression, the independent union movement must be supported through high level political intervention from the European Union”.