Belarus: Strikes and Workplace Protests add Pressure on Lukashenko to go

Following massive public mobilisations in recent days, a wave of strikes and workplace protests are adding pressure on Belarus’ dictator Alexander Lukashenko to step down immediately. Lukashenko’s 26-year grip on power began to unravel after faked election results giving him 80% of the vote caused outrage around the country.

“We stand in solidarity with our affiliate, the BKDP, and the working people of Belarus as they organise to shake off the last vestiges of the corrupt regime that has systematically repressed workers’ and other human rights for more than two decades. Governments need to increase pressure on the regime to go, so that democracy can finally prevail,” said ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow.

Actions in workplaces around the country are underway, following calls from the BKDP and the opposition for working people to join strikes. Lukashenko was jeered and told to resign by factory workers today in what the authorities had hoped would be a show of support.

At least two people have been killed by security services in their crackdown on protests, with several thousand detained and evidence of wide-scale and brutal torture of detainees. Nikolai Zimin, leader of the Chemical Workers’ Union, was released from detention following urgent requests from unions inside and outside the country, and was able to receive urgently needed medical treatment that had been denied to him while detained. Two other union leaders, Maxim Sereda and Vasili Petrikin, were released at the same time, however many of those held have yet to be set free.

Aliaksandr Yarashuk, BKDP President, has condemned “cynical falsifications of presidential elections and atrocities over peaceful protests” and the BKDP has said that the “determination of workers to go to the end will now play a decisive role in resolving the acute political crisis in the country.”

A decision by the European Union to introduce ‘smart sanctions’ on Belarus and hold a special meeting on Wednesday (19 August 2020) has been welcomed by the European trade union movement.

Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the ETUC and of the Pan-European Regional Council of the ITUC said: “The European trade union movement jointly urges the European Union to review EU relations with Belarus. This includes the reintroduction of commensurate sanctions for electoral fraud and violence as well as reconsidering cooperation with the country, including within the Eastern Partnership. Strengthening support to Belarusian civil society, including independent unions, and stopping any EU financial support to the government and state-controlled projects, including through multilateral development banks, must also be urgently addressed.”

“As in so many cases in the past, trade union action is central to achieving democracy and respect for human rights. The people of Belarus can rest assured that solidarity from unions around the world in support of their cause is strong and will continue until the demands of the independent trade unions of Belarus are met,” added Sharan Burrow.

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