Igor Komlik: The authorities destroyed independent trade unions, but this does not mean that activists have no right to register a new trade union

    The authorities destroyed independent trade unions, but this does not mean that activists have no right to appeal to the Supreme Court or even register a new trade union, notes Igor Komlik, Chief Accountant of the Free Metalworkers’ Union (SPM).

    We consider the decision of the court unlawful. From my point of view as a lawyer, the evidence base is weak. We will appeal against this decision to the Supreme Court. I don’t know how this issue will be resolved; however, we will not give up and will continue our work.

    How will this court decision come back to haunt ordinary workers? Of course, there is nowhere for them to expect real protection from. But to be honest, it’s partially their fault, because they did not join independent trade unions so actively, they tried to adapt to the situation. Unfortunately, this led to the result we see now. People are unprotected.

    Besides, it will reflect badly on Belarus itself. What is the image of a country that bans independent trade unions in the International Labour Organization and the UN?

     I can say that the governing bodies of the SPM trade union did not make decisions on organizing illegal strikes. On the contrary, the task was set like that: if a strike is organized, then it must be done in accordance with the law.

    Nobody deprived us of the right to strike. It exists both in the domestic legislation of Belarus – the Labour Code and the Constitution – and in international legislation. To say that the union should have opposed the strikes is nonsense. If it has such an instrument, it should use it. On what grounds – it’s another thing.                    

    I believe that if the SPM did some work in this direction, it tried to bring people to work within the law.

    Now most of the arrested trade union leaders remain in custody. Among them there are people with chronic diseases, including cancers. The authorities do not pay attention to this – these people are kept in custody. It is not known exactly under which articles they are charged.                                                                  

    It is difficult to predict how the situation will evolve. How to help the detainees? Trade union associations and members of trade unions, including global ones, must express their solidarity and show their attitude. We support them as much as we can – we write letters.