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Union members go on hunger strike in Belarus

26 March, 2014In the morning of 25 March members of the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB) started a three-day hunger strike at the Bobruisk Factory of Tractor Parts and Units (BZTDiA). The workers made this decision because of the reluctance of the management to start bargaining.

Mikhail Kovalkov, the chairman of SPB union and the leader of the SPB local at BZTDiA, holds the hunger strike at the factory gate in reply to the factory management failure to fulfill their promises given two months ago and to start collective bargaining. The union leader is denied access to the territory of the enterprise. According to him since 25 March four more workers have been supporting the hunger strike at their workplaces. On 26 March, the second day of the hunger strike, three more people joined them, including two colleagues dismissed because of their union SPB membership.

The discrimination of union members still persists at the enterprise. "Members of the Free Trade Union of Belarus get neither any benefit payment to recover their health during holidays, nor benefit payments when retiring, although these are paid to the members of the official union, the Belarusian Automobile and Agricultural Machinery Workers’ Union", - Kovalkov said. Labour contracts are not renewed with SPB members. The union local is gradually destroyed. For the time being around 130 factory workers are members of SPB.

Back in January the union leader demanded the management to stop persecuting and firing union activists and to start bargaining with SPB local union. In return the management first demanded to re-register the local union, since the factory was reorganized as a joint-stock company. However the unionists could not get the recurrent registration of their local union, because they needed a legal address, which the management refuses to provide.

"The management has many times promised that all union problems will be settled, but they have never kept their promise. We did not have any other way out", - Kovalkov explained his decision to go on hunger strike.

The chairman of the local union hopes that the management will take the decision during the three-day hunger strike of the workers. "If the management refuses to cooperate, we have plans to hold a more significant action some time in April,” – said the trade union leader.