Establishment and formation of the BKDP

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The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions was established in 1993 and became the first independent trade union center in the country.

In response to a principled position on the protection of workers’ rights and freedoms, in 1996 the Ministry of Justice denied the state re-registration of the BKDP.

As a result of pressure both within the country and on the part of international organizations, at the end of 1997 the BKDP was registered. However, that was only the beginning of a long way for the BKDP to fight for its rights as an independent trade union movement amid a non-democratic political system.

2003 — BKDP became a member of the International Trade Union Confederation.

2007 — pressure on the trade union movement by the authorities and the response of the BKDP resulted in the exclusion of Belarus from the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences.

2010 — the first election of the chairman of the BKDP Aleksandr Yaroshuk to the post of vice-president of the International Confederation of Trade Unions. Later the representative of Belarus was re-elected twice more.

2011 — the leader of the BKDP Aleksandr Yaroshuk was elected a member of the ILO Administrative Council, later re-elected twice.

2012 — campaign for workers’ rights at the state-owned enterprise “Granit”.

2017 — National campaign of independent trade unions against the “social parasitism tax”.

2020 — BKDP announced the creation of the National Strike Committee.

The decline of the Soviet economy in the late 80s and the drastic impoverishment of almost the entire population in the former USSR and the BSSR in particular in the early 90s caused strong discontent among the workers. Low wages, a shortage of food products, industrial goods as well as essential goods in stores, delays in the payment of wages to workers and retirement benefits to retirees led to numerous strikes.

However, those strikes were not initiated by the official state trade union but organized by strike committees created in large industrial enterprises headed by energetic workers and informal leaders.

After a series of major industrial protests and strikes in Minsk, large regional cities and big enterprises, the strike committees gradually started their transformation into free and independent trade union organizations, first – at enterprises, and later – with the purpose of uniting into regional organizations.

By 1993, the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP) was already functioning in Belarus thus uniting the independent trade union of miners and chemists, the Belarusian Free Trade Union (SPB) that united workers of various professions, the Free Metalworkers’ Union and the Democratic Trade Union of Transport Workers (DPT).

In the first lead-up to the presidential election, there was a need for all independent trade unions to unite, and in 1993 a founding congress was held at which a national trade union center was created under the title – the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP).

The largest entity of the BKDP is the BNP. It includes the primary organization of the Independent Trade Union of Miners (NPG) at JSC Belaruskali in the city of Soligorsk, the primary organization at JSC Mozyr Oil Refinery, and a number of other organizations.

Since the emergence of independent trade unions, the authorities by all means showed stubborn resistance to the establishment of an independent trade union movement in Belarus. This became especially evident with today’s administration coming to power in 1994.

In early 1996, the Ministry of Justice, in violation of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Trade Unions” and Convention No. 87 of the International Labor Organization, demanded re-registration of trade unions. Following the direct order of the President of Belarus, the Ministry of Justice denied re-registration of the BKDP. Only on December 19, 1997, thanks to the solidarity support of foreign colleagues, international trade union organizations, the BKDP managed to obtain a registration certificate.

On any pretext, authorities denied state registration, provision of premises or legal address of independent trade unions and continue to do so, they dismiss active members of trade unions and leaders of organizations, force ordinary members to withdraw from independent trade unions and to join the state-controlled FPB (the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus) threatening them with dismissal or refusal to conclude or renew labour contracts. The authorities are doing everything to completely eliminate the independent trade union movement in Belarus.

All this was the reason why in 2000 several independent trade unions filed a complaint to the ILO in connection with the violation by the government of the international ILO Conventions: The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention No. 87 and The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention No. 98. Despite the numerous measures taken by the ILO (providing technical assistance to the government, sending ILO experts, organizing and conducting an independent Commission of Inquiry, involving the European Commission in monitoring and other measures), the Belarusian authorities openly ignore the recommendations of the ILO and the European Union aimed at rectifying the situation with trade union rights in Belarus. As a result, in 2007, the country lost its status as the beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in trade with the EU countries.

The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions is actually the only trade union center currently defending the principles of an independent trade union movement. A group consisting of 12 thousand people is an “island of freedom”, it occupies a bridgehead where they defend the ideals of freedom and democracy in the country. Hopes, expectations, as well as prospects for the development of the country’s trade union movement are associated with the BKDP.