Possible application of the ILO’s paragraph 33 in respect of Belarus is brought back to the agenda due to repressions against independent trade unions, their leaders and members

    On July 14, 2021, officers of the internal affairs bodies searched the house of the Chairman of the Belarusian Free Trade Union (SPB) Nikolai Sharakh. Nikolai was detained for three days on suspicion of a criminal offense. Thus, another fact of repression against the activists and members of independent trade unions has been added to the facts took place earlier. It would be reasonable to conclude that the threats against the BKDP expressed by the Minister of Labour and Social Protection Irina Kostevich, who referred to the organization as to “the enemy of the state and the authorities”, do not remain just words.

    How will the BKDP act in the face of repression against independent trade unions?

    Firstly, we are not going to wind our activity up, but on the contrary, we will increase it. I would like to emphasize that we, at least me personally, have no intention to leave the country.

    Secondly, the threat expressed by a high representative of the public authorities has drawn close attention of the international community, namely, the International Labour Organization and the international trade union movement, to the current events in Belarus, it has significantly increased the price the regime will pay for “sweeping us away”. Special thanks to Mrs. Kostevich and her assistants for all this.

    The ILO Director General Guy Ryder made a special request to the Minister of Labour and Social Protection and is awaiting clarification regarding the implication of her threat and the consequences of including the BKDP in the list of enemies of the Belarusian state and authorities. We are curious to know what Mrs. Kostevich will answer, what justifications for the hostile essence of independent trade unions her imagination will find.

    Thirdly, we have prepared a Plan of Implementation of the Conclusion of the Committee on Standards of the ILO dated June 18, and in the near future will submit it to the government with a requirement to consider and adopt it at a meeting of the Council for the Improvement of Legislation in the Social and Labour Field under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and at a meeting of the National Council on Labour and Social Issues. It is worth reminding that we have representatives in both of the aforementioned bodies.

    Will the authorities convene meetings of these bodies or not? Will they implement the Conclusion of the Committee on the Application of Standards which requires the authorities to immediate release unlawfully convicted members of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of the Belarusian Steel Works (BMZ), to end repressions against members of independent trade unions, to ensure immunity from persecution for its leaders and activists, to register newly created organizations of independent trade unions? – It is up to them to decide, it will be their own choice which they have to take responsibility for.

    Fourthly, by the threats of destruction of the independent trade union movement and their implementation, Mrs. Kostevich, as well as Golovaty, Lyashenko, Saiko, heads of educational and health care institutions and organizations are paving the shortest way for triggering  mechanisms for further tough decisions by the ILO in Belarus, including application of the procedure provided for in the ILO’s notorious paragraph 33 which is in the exclusive competence of its governing body – the ILO Administrative Council. Its next meeting will be held in November. Judging by the dynamics of the escalated repression against independent trade unions, the representatives of the regime are trying to succeed to put paragraph 33 into practice by this date.

    Note that this practice will be achieved not by our demand – we are still not going to call on the international community for sanctions. We willingly concede this privilege to the Belarusian government. Its representatives are doing everything to expose the country to more and more restrictions, sanctions and troubles, and they have every chance to succeed here as well. The search and arrest of the Chairman of the Belarusian Free Trade Union (SPB) Nikolai Sharakh just proves it.