Over the last two weeks, more workers and trade union leaders in Belarus have been arrested for fighting for their right to join trade unions and showing their discontent with the Belarusian government.
In mid-August, Volha Brytsikava, the former chairperson of the BNP union of Naftan employees was detained near Navapolatsk. Her former deputy, Aliaksandr Balonkin, was detained in the evening that same day.
Naftan strike activist Aliaksandr Kukharonak, one of the first to declare a strike at the comapny in 2020, was detained by riot police in the village of Rositsa. Riot police searched both his and his parents’ homes.
Both Volha Brytsikava and Aliaksandr Kukharonak have been repeatedly detained between 2020-2022, accused of calling for sanctions and other actions which aim at harming the national security of Belarus.
On 15 August, three employees were detained at the Navagrudak Gas Equipment Plant. According to human rights activists, plant detentions take place almost every week and are often based on subscriptions to so called extremist channels. Workers are sporadically asked to surrender their phones for inspection.
Earlier in August, a welder at the Gomselmash company was brutally detained by law enforcement for allegedly sending links to extremist resources. All information criticizing President Lukashenko’s policy are deemed extremist.
Another worker at Gomel Maltal and Normal Molders plant was arrested for liking a post related to the formation of a totalitarian management model in Belarus.
Maxim Pozniakov, president of IndustriALL affiliate BNP, says:
“The new wave of detentions at Belarusian enterprises shows that Lukashenka’s regime fears labour protests the most. I also believe that the regime has not understood the seriousness of the situation related to the application of Article 33 of the ILO Statute to Belarus, since it has started a new wave of escalation. This is not conducive to improving relations with the ILO and may lead to the application of the most serious measures and sanctions.”
Together with other global unions, IndustriALL has continuously opposed and condemned the actions against trade union leaders and has called for all charges against them to be dropped. The Belarusian government are violating ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. There are also accusations of use of forced labour.
In June this year, the annual International Labour Conference adopted a resolution under Article 33 of the ILO Constitution, challenging Belarus’ continued disregard for workers’ rights and the arrest of countless trade unionists. This is the strongest measure possible under ILO Constitution against a state violating workers’ rights.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:
“The escalation of arrests in Belarus shows a continuation of violations of workers’ and trade union rights. IndustriALL supports and assists independent Belarusian unions in their struggle to operate. IndustriALL will continue to publicly support the movement for independent unions and democracy in Belarus and will use our global voice to condemn the heavy oppression they face.”