PERC Executive Committee Declaration in support of independent trade union movement of Belarus

Following the latest developments in Belarus PERC Executive Committee unanimously reiterates its full support to the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) in its fight for trade union rights and freedoms and confirms that will keep the situation in Belarus under close scrutiny as priority case for Europe region. Recent deterioration of diplomatic relations between the EU, its member states and Belarus, and imposition of new sanctions against state officials offers only the latest confirmation that Lukashenko’s regime does not tolerate any freedom and does not want to be part of democratic community in Europe.

Belarus has been continuously criticized by the ILO for non-compliance with the international labour standards. The ILO Commission of Inquiry produced 12 recommendations, which already for years wait to be implemented by the state. These recommendations, inter alia, specifically refer to remove the obligatory registration of unions by the authorities as recognition of existence and call to stop harassment of the independent unionists. The situation at RUPP Granite, however, once again shows that the regime does not want to respect its international commitments and continue suppressing individual and trade union freedoms.

The Belarusian workers are not afraid to voice their discontent and to join independent unions. The situation of RUPP "Granite" company in Mikashevichi town in southern part of Brest region is symptomatic. Nearly 600 or employed by the company 3200 workers at one time have announced on their disaffiliation from the FPB and more than 200 workers did set up an independent organisation that joined the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP), member of the ITUC affiliate BKDP. Not surprisingly, the harassment of leaders of newly organized independent union began almost immediately. Union leader Oleg Stakhaevich and Liudmila Litvinko, wife of another union activist, were dismissed. Other workers and union activists are threatened to have problems during the work place assessment test certifying their professional competency and fitness. Yet, the workers would not tolerate that and announced their intention to strike to get union leaders reinstated and the union recognised.

The PERC Executive committee urges Belarusian authorities to:
• Stop harassment, discrimination and information baiting of independent unions and their leaders;
• Reinstate Oleg Stakhaevich and Liudmila Litvinka;
• Recognize the RUPP “Granite” company union and to ensure it can operate without any interference and that workers are free to join organization of their own choice.
PERC declares that it fully supports the restrictions imposed by the EU, including the withdrawal of trade preferences under GSP and it will be considering further actions to support its affiliate BKDP and its leaders and to make sure workers of Belarus can enjoy their freedoms and rights.