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Repression against independent unions in Belarus must stop

20 April, 2022IndustriALL Global Union condemns the escalating repression of the independent trade union movement in Belarus and demands the release of detained activists.

The latest blatant attack on the independent union movement in Belarus occurred on 19 April:

The offices of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) and its affiliated unions, including two IndustriALL affiliates - Free Metal Workers’ Union (SPM) and Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REP) - were searched. Union leaders’ and activists’ homes were also searched, and digital devices and union paperwork was seized. Union leaders and activists were detained, including Alexander Yaroshuk, Sergey Antusevich, Irina Bud-Gusaim, Nikolay Sharakh, Gennady Fedynich, Yana Malash, Vitaly Chichmarev, Vadim Payvin, Mikhail Gromov, Aleksander Bukhvostov, Igor Komlik, Vasiliy Bersenev, and Dmitry Borodko.   

Alexander Yaroshuk

Earlier, on 7 April, the Committee for State Security of Belarus (KGB) listed the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union as an extremist organization and banned its activities. REP asked for a written explanation from the KGB as to why the union, which runs its activity in careful compliance with national and international legislation, was deemed an extremist formation. New searches and detentions came as a response.

Unions in Belarus have been under attack since August 2020, with searches of union offices and homes of union leaders and activists, administrative penalties, detentions and imprisonments of those who fight for workers’ rights. Recently, there has been an increase in interrogations of union activists, the illegal installation of video and listening devices in union offices, and pressure placed on union members to resign from their union has become widespread.

By oppressing its democratic workers’ organizations, Belarus is violating its international obligations, including the ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, which has been ratified by Belarus.

In March, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association heavily criticized the government of Belarus for its continued failure to implement key recommendations of a 2004 ILO Commission of Inquiry. A number of the union representatives who provided testimony to the ILO on Belarus in recent years are amongst those detained. IndustriALL Global union calls on the ILO to intervene urgently in the situation.

These violations must stop immediately.

We demand the immediate release of all detained union leaders and activists, for all charges to be dropped, and to allow unions to perform their union activity in line with national and international legislation. It is imperative that the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union be removed from the list of extremist organizations and be allowed to continue carrying out its trade union activity.

We also urge Belarus to stop all repression of the union movement, and to start building a working relationship with trade unions based on social dialogue.