On June 7, an online meeting of the ILO Committee on Standards took place, which considered the issue of violation of the norms of the International Labor Organization Convention No. 87 "On freedom of association and protection of the right to associate in trade unions" in Belarus. Belarusian workers cannot freely participate in peaceful assemblies, exercise the right to strike and form trade unions outside the state-controlled unions. Democratic union activists are under constant pressure, and employers are using short-term contracts to crack down on those who choose to join an independent union.
At the meeting, representatives of the Belarusian government, employers and the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus assured the Committee members that social dialogue in Belarus is at a high level. In addition, representatives of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions were admitted to this dialogue as a gesture of goodwill. According to the Minister of Labor Irina Kostevich , the BKDP biasedly informs the ILO representatives about the situation in the country, and the head of the FPB Mikhail Orda noted that a policy of double standards is being pursued with regard to Belarus at the international level. This position was supported by the governments of Russia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Venezuela, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Nicaragua.
In turn, a number of representatives of other governments, employers and workers, observers from international organizations, spoke about the failure to comply with the recommendations made to the Belarusian authorities back in 2004. Some noted a significant deterioration in workers' rights during this period.
This opinion is shared by the countries of the European Union, Albania, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Great Britain, USA, Canada, Switzerland, trade unions of the Russian Federation, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. They noted that Belarusian workers cannot freely participate in peaceful assemblies, exercise the right to strike and form trade unions that are not part of the FPB. Democratic union activists are under constant pressure, and employers are using short-term contracts to crack down on those who choose to join an independent union.
IndustriALL Global Union and IUF Global Unions also noted the deteriorating situation with workers' rights in Belarus. For example , Kemal Ozkan , IndustriALL deputy general secretary, said that the authorities have effectively denied rights to Belarusian citizens and are pursuing a policy of eliminating independent trade unions at all Belarusian enterprises. As an example, he cited the situation with an attempt to register the primary BNP at the Zhlobin BMZ. Kirill Buketov , representing the IUF, noted that such a situation has been observed in Belarus since 2001: during this time there has been a regression, not progress in meeting the requirements. Both trade union leaders found a violation of ILO Convention No. 87.
Alexander Yaroshuk spoke on behalf of the International Trade Union Confederation and the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions. He confirmed the worsening of the situation:
Belarus is known as one of the most problematic countries in the area of workers' and trade union rights. Almost all employees have been transferred to fixed-term employment contracts. Along with the system of excessive punishments, this resulted in a total lack of rights for workers and deprived them of their right to freedom of association. The state pursues a policy of favoritism towards trade unions. Workers are discriminated against on the basis of trade unionism and are fired for belonging to independent trade unions. The situation has deteriorated dramatically over the past year.
The meeting also noted the changes in the labor legislation of Belarus, which, according to the representatives of the Committee, worsened the situation of workers. The speaker of the Committee from the group of employers Sonya Regenbogen also noted the fact of Alexander Lukashenko's ultimatum demand to private business, in which he demanded to create trade unions in private enterprises. She considers this situation unacceptable, because the creation of trade unions should come from below, from the workers themselves, and even more so it should not mean the creation of trade unions only in the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus. The question of the authorities 'favoritism in relation to the FPB was repeatedly raised in the speakers' reports.
At the end of the meeting, the floor was given to Minister Irina Kostevich, who not only did not recognize the violation of workers' rights, but called the activities of the BKDP destructive:
There are forces both abroad and within the country that are trying to harm the established social dialogue between Belarus and the ILO. Inside the country, it is the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, which is an open opponent of the current government.
Workers' group spokesman Mark Lemans noted that despite the government's statements of progress, no progress has been made in practice. Workers are subject to constant repression, and independent trade unions are currently unable to freely carry out their work:
In view of the lack of progress over the past years, non-fulfillment of the commission's recommendations and in the light of the current difficult situation, we must single out Belarus in a separate paragraph.
The Committee on Standards within the framework of the International Labor Conference will take a decision on the issue of violation of ILO Convention No. 87 by Belarus in a week.