Updated at 14:54,16-10-2020

How the international trade union solidarity threatens Belarusian authorities


Boycott of Belarusian goods in Europe is the goal announced by the head of Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions Alexander Yaroshuk in connection with the refusal to register an independent trade union in "Granite" enterprise.

What is it for, how independent trade unions are fighting for recognition, what is the probability of their success, and in which issues labor unions are stronger then politicians, the head of Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCITU) Alexander Yaroshuk told in an interview to UDF.BY.

- Alexander, how trade unions are going to achieve the boycott of Belarusian goods? What kind of tools do you have for this?

- This is international support. From the beginning we didn't rule out an attempt of the authorities to destroy the independent trade union movement in Belarus. We are constantly keeping in mind these intentions, and we know with whom we deal. Therefore, all the time since the beginning of this tough confrontation we've sought to protect the organization.

Remember how relation of the authorities have strained with the independent trade union movement after 2007, when as the result of systematic and gross violation of trade union rights in Belarus, the European Union trade preferences were abolished. All this time we've been discussing with our foreign colleagues from the International Labour Organization (ILO) the ability to protect the independent trade unions in Belarus. Including the idea of boycotting Belarusian goods. They are treated us with understanding and agreed on the feasibility of such actions, when there is an urgent need. And today, is just the very moment, in order to cool "hot heads" itching to crack down on the independent trade union in "Granite" enterprise in Mikashevichi. So we'll find the way to protect activists.

In addition, we met in Soligorsk on January 16 with members of the independent trade union of "Granite". We talked about solidarity and support of the organizations that are part of the BCITU.

Thus, we use all the possibilities - internal and external - in order to protect people and the organization, and I can state once again: we will do it! The organization was founded, the organization exists, the organization will be, and no one should have any doubts on that.

- So you believe in success of this initiative?

- Absolutely. And I declare that, despite all the machinations of government and pressure, which is being applied, we'll give an extremely disastrous response on all the reprisals. Both, as personally to those who got involved in this dirty adventure to destroy the independent trade union organization, and as to the political regime, which by its nature doesn't tolerate dissent. Because, it's on request of the regime, they are now making attempts to destroy the organization.

- Why do European politicians failed to declare a boycott of Belarusian goods, but the trade unions will succeed?

- There is a significant difference in reaction to events in Belarus from the EU politicians and from trade unions. The advantage of the latter in that they are free from considering a political conjuncture and can afford to call things by their proper names. They have more precise goals and interests, and they won't look back at a mercantilism or politics of the country. So, if actions to block the Belarusian goods are needed, they will be done. If Belarusian regime has doubts that we can do it, then I draw their attention to the learning experience of the abolition of trade preferences in Belarus. Then they, too, until recently, didn't believe this can happen, but it happened. We have in our hands a serious tool and this tool is the international trade union's solidarity.

- Is there any news regarding the registration of the independent trade union in "Granite"?

- We are waiting for an answer, which expires on January 25. And we have got everything ready to apply further to the prosecutor's office, courts, government, and put them in front of unpleasant choice: either the union receives a registration, or at the annual International Labour Conference in June we'll raise a question about the use of article 33 of the ILO in Belarus. This is a call to governments of the civilized world to stop all relations with Belarusian government. So I wouldn't advise them to delay the procedure for recognition of the organization and providing it with a legal address.

Note. The International Labour Organization (ILO) - UN agency dealing with labor relations, including trade unions. The ILO can not compel the execution even of ratified Conventions, but nevertheless, there are mechanisms of control over their execution.

Thus, in exceptional cases, article 33 of the ILO Constitution is used, under which an organization can encourage their members to influence the state, especially, which grossly violates international labor standards. Moreover, specific means for the country-offender are not specified: they are determined individually by the International Labour Conference, and their stiffness depends on the position of deputies.

This measure was used only once: in 2001 for Myanmar, which for decades has been criticized for the use of forced labor. As a result, several states have used economic sanctions, and the country was forced to meet the requirements of the ILO.

Article 33 of the ILO Constitution: "in the event of any Member failing to carry out within the time specified the recommendations, if any, contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry, or in the decision of the International Court of Justice, as the case may be, the Governing Body may recommend to the Conference such action as it may deem wise and expedient to secure compliance therewith".