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Precedent set as Belarusian authorities register local union

23 January, 2019For the first time since the submission of a complaint to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2000 against violations of trade union rights, Belarusian authorities have registered an independent local union.

IndustriALL affiliate the Belarusian Independent trade union of Miners, Chemists, Oil-refiners, Energy, Transport, Construction and other workers (BITU) received a notification of registration of its local organization on 15 January 2019 after the third application.

The local is not a new organization. Following restructuring at JSC Belaruskali, a potash fertilizer producer, some units of the company became separate subsidiaries. One unit became a new company named Remmontazhstroy.

Remmontazhstroy workers - many of them members of BITU for years - wanted to maintain their union membership and bargain collectively, but according to Belarusian legislation had to register as a new local organization of the union.

Some 400 people held a founding assembly and duly announced the creation of their local. However, in June 2018, the Soligorsk municipality denied the registration without explanation. BITU appealed the decision in court.

Remmontazhstroy workers appealed to the government, and asked the international trade union community for support. IndustriALL Global Union, ITUC and IUF sent letters to the President of Belarus.

The BITU president Nikolay Zimin states,

“Registration of a trade union organization should be an ordinary procedure that would not take so much time, energy and effort. If people decide to join a trade union, they should not be discouraged or pressured. And public authorities should ensure that the expression of human will is fully respected.”

Unfortunately, other independent trade unions in Belarus still struggle to register locals for arbitrary reasons.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, said:

“IndustriALL believes that such a long and exhausting registration process is unacceptable. The entire process of registration must be based on notification and not a permission from the state authorities.”

“All those who submitted their applications for registration of their unions or structural subdivisions must be granted such registration immediately.”