Aleksandr Bukhvostov: There is no law that would oblige enterprises to create trade union structures

    Aleksandr Lukashenko again spoke about the mandatory creation of units of official trade unions at private enterprises. Refusal to do so may even result in liquidation of a private enterprise

    – The creation of primary organizations, first of all in private structures, is a sore point. If there are still some companies that do not understand this, it means that the government should immediately discuss these issues and make specific proposals up to the liquidation of private structures that refuse to have trade union organizations, – said Lukashenko at a meeting with the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus Mikhail Orda on August 5, 2021.

    Why does Lukashenko need units of state trade unions at non-state enterprises? The “Belarusian Partisan” media discussed this issue with the Chairman of the Free Metalworkers’ Union (SPM) Aleksandr Bukhvostov.

    – For Lukashenko, the issue of creating trade unions is a matter of influencing labour collectives. Those created in private enterprises will be headed by their own people who will control relationships of a different nature within the labour collective and prevent any protest moods.

    I think the campaign is being carried out precisely for this reason, and not because of the intention to protect workers from the employers’ tyranny.

    The political system created by Lukashenko provides for the building of structures to keep the situation under control. From the experience of the last year we saw that everyone must join the official trade unions, that’s all.

    As for the implementation of the Labour Code at commercial enterprises, it makes sense if the workers themselves create a trade union in order to control the situation. However, this case is not for our society, not for our state.

    We know examples when people have a 16-hour long working day because they want to earn money.

    – Can refusal to create units of official trade unions lead to the liquidation of a private enterprise?

    – Yes, of course. It can, because a ” suspicious-looking” structure appears: why does it not want to have a trade union? This means that it treats the workers badly; it does not want to control the implementation of the Labour Code at the enterprise. The leaders will have troubles.

    – Does the Belarusian legislation regulate the mandatory creation of a trade union at every enterprise?

    – There is no law that obliges enterprises to create trade union structures. It shouldn’t be like that. Belarus has ratified the ILO Convention “On Freedom of Association” which defines a trade union as a free association of workers, if a worker does not want to create an organization then no one can force him to create it.

    Otherwise, it is no longer a free organization of workers, not a trade union in the understanding of the International Labour Organization. If people do not want trade unions – no one can force them; if they want – this means that the state must provide conditions for the free association of workers.

    Members of independent trade unions get dismissed, contracts with them are not prolonged, those who withdraw from the official trade union are deprived of the opportunity to participate in collective bargaining.

    In Belarus, the international law prevails (and the ILO conventions refer precisely to this section). Any official can say: yes, I would like to have trade unions created. But the point is that trade unions should be created by people but not officials.

    We had examples when the heads of private enterprises applied to us and said: rather than create an official trade union, let’s create an independent one. After we explained them the essence of a trade union, they never applied to us again.

    The goal of the campaign is to oblige leaders to create trade unions that would fit into the trade unions of the Federation and follow all instructions. In the past, in the time of Vladimir Goncharik, each trade union was completely independent, it did not even coordinate internal affairs with the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (the Federation Council acted as a coordination center); and now the Federation joined the vertical power structure. It existed in times of the Soviet Union, and it has revived.

    – Against the background of such statements, do you expect unfriendly actions in relation to independent trade unions?

    – Our activity contradicts neither the Labour Code, nor the Constitution, nor the law on trade unions, nor the ILO Conventions No. 98 and No. 87 ratified by Belarus.