Belarus: Government intensifies anti-union crackdown as ILO meets

photo: IndustriAll

The Lukashenko regime’s crackdown on independent trade unions has intensified, with the country’s attorney general petitioning the Supreme Court to terminate the activities of several union organisations and seeking to criminalise legitimate trade union activities.

More than 20 union leaders were detained in late April, and security forces have been systematically harassing unionists.

The latest move is aimed at the ITUC-affiliated BKDP trade union centre, and its constituent members – the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP), the Union of Radio and Electronics Workers (REP), the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB) and the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers (SPM).

Leaders of these unions are imprisoned or under criminal investigation, including:

  • BKDP President and ILO Governing Body member Aleksandr Yarashuk;
  • BKDP Vice-President Sergey Antusevich;
  • BNP President Maxim Poznyakov;
  • Leaders of the REP Gennadiy Fedynich and Zinaida Mikhnyuk;
  • SPB President MIkalaj Sharakh; and
  • SPM President Aleksandr Bukhvostov.

It comes at the end of the annual International Labour Conference of the ILO, where the regime in Belarus came under heavy criticism for its continuous and worsening record of violating fundamental labour standards.

On 8 June, unions from around the world held protests in many major cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Seoul, Warsaw and Vilnius to demand the immediate release of all imprisoned trade unionists and to draw attention to the government’s anti-union agenda.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Lukashenko’s regime is clearly intent on suffocating fundamental liberties including the right to strike and the right to legitimate trade union representation. The ITUC condemns these latest moves, which are aimed at deepening the regime’s control over all facets of life and punishing those who simply want the best for working people.

“The fact that this happens during the ILO Conference underlines Lukashenko’s utter disregard for the rule of law and his contempt for the world at large.”