15 June, 2023Today global unions, trade union activists and delegates in attendance at the 111th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva gathered at the Broken Chair to call for the immediate release of imprisoned Belarusian trade unionists and an end to the repression of workers’ rights.
Delegates at the demonstration demanded that all charges against the imprisoned leaders be dropped and that international organizations are given access to visit the country.
Maksim Pazniakou, acting president of the the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) said:
“We thank you for being here and supporting our Belarusian colleagues. Your support is very important for those in jail; they know that they have support from the outside and that they are not alone. I hope that the adoption of Article 33 will push the authorities to respect workers’ rights and it will help to release our comrades from jail and to restore the independent trade union movement in the country.”
Earlier this week, the ILC adopted a resolution under Article 33 of the ILO constitution, challenging Belarus’ continued disregard for workers’ rights and the arrest of countless trade unionists. Article 33 tackles non-compliance with a report of an ILO commission of inquiry. This commission was established in 2003 regarding violations of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. This adoption means that member states will take all the possible steps to ensure that Belarus implements the recommendations of that enquiry. This could involve sanctions but also support for those persecuted by the regime and their struggle for international workers’ rights.
This is the first time in the more than 100-year history of the ILO that delegates to the International Labour Conference, representing governments, employers and trade unions, have taken such a step to stop violations of freedom of association. Until now, this procedure had only been used once—in 2000, against Myanmar, over its use of forced labour.
IndustriALL assistant Kemal Özkan said:
“We are fighting against a dictator and are united with the workers in Belarus. We will not give up until the political hostages are freed. This is a fight for democracy and for fundamental workers’ rights. We have an important step forward with the ILC decision on Article 33 and we will continue until we get justice for Belarus. Our struggle continues and we will win.”