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Leader of Belarusian trade union REPAM prosecuted for defending labour rights

21 March, 2017Chair of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REPAM), and deputy member of the Executive Committee of IndustriALL European region, Gennady Fedynich has been found guilty of participating in an unlawful mass event after joining protests against the presidential decree on social dependency and fined US$ 640.

On 17 March, the leader of REPAM union Gennady Fedynich was tried in Minsk court. He 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". At the hearing the union leader said he could not do otherwise. His union has collected 45,000 signatures for the abolition of Decree no. 3 "On the prevention of social dependency". According to the decree, Belarusian citizens who fail to work for more than six months must pay a tax of US $ 240. Unemployed people who appealed for help from the union took part in the rally, and the leader considered his participation essential.

Gennady Fedynich stated:

“I said at the trial that people will protest, even if authorities jail all opponents. It is the fault of the government alone that people go to rallies. Now not only the decree will stand on the agenda, but there will be also socio-economic and maybe even political demands”.

According to the union leader, the court hearing was held in a democratic manner. All the parties were able to express their position, and no one was interrupted. In the end, the court found Gennady Fedynich guilty and fined him US$ 640.

The same day on 17 March, the court also tried REPAM’s legal inspector Leonid Sudalenko, who got a warning. Trade union activist Andrej Strizhak was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest.

As of today more than 20 activists of the union were subject to reprisals for participating in the peaceful protest against the Decree no. 3. They were arrested for periods of 2 to 15 days, and also received fines for a total amount of more than US $ 3,000.

Many activists complained that during the arrest police in plain clothes had used unjustified physical force and tear gas.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka demanded that the government find jobs for all the unemployed until 1 May. Citizens of the country might be directed to community services, for example, planting a forest. These jobs are low-paid and do not take into account experience and level of education of workers.

Despite all the intimidation from the authorities, union members are preparing new protests against the unjust decree on 25 March (Freedom Day) in Minsk, 26 March in the regional cities and 26 April (Chernobyl Way) as part of an annual opposition rally in remembrance of the Chernobyl disaster.