Belarusian authorities attack the workers´ movement

In 2019, a year before the elections, the authorities of Belarus decided to permanently crush the independent workers movement. This is about the systematic destruction of the base organization of the Belarusian Independent Union in the potassium salt extraction plant Belaruskali.

According to information made public in Salihorsk, during the last three months after the visit of Natalla Kachanava, the head of the Presidency of the Republic of Belarus, to the management of the company, represented by its General Director Ivan Halavaty, the green light was given to end the independent union, under the motivation that “a non-controlled union still functions in a company of strategic importance for the country”.

It is worth pointing out that the other base organizations of the Belarusian Independent Union are very weakened by their companies. The organization of Salihorsk is an exception to this rule, which proves its efficiency in the defense of the interests of workers. The average wage and the social benefits in the company are among the best in Belarus.

The example of Salihorsk, of how the workers can defend their own interests, was used by workers of other companies in trying to create their own independent unions. Among other examples, the RUPP Granit and the OOO Delta Stil. Yet these organizations were crushed by the authorities and their leaders were fired.

What irritates the current regime the most today is the recent example of the registration of the base organization of the SIB in the construction and mounting company Remmontazhstroy. Despite the threats of lay-offs and pressure exerted on workers, after 8 months of struggle, the authorities had to register the base organization. It is the first to be registered in over twenty years. The solidarity of the workers of Belaruskali organized in the Independent Union played an important role in that case. This was the starting point of the pressure on the main organization of the union.

In Belarus there are two main unions. One of them is the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Unions, where the SIB takes part. The other is the Federation of Unions of Belarus that organizes 96% of workers, including company managers. In fact, it is a “yellow” association that lost its independence in 2002.
The first step of the management of the company to apply pressure on the members of the union who were also members of the other union. Then they started pressuring the engineers, technicians and service personnel of the company. Now they have started strongly pressuring the workers and activists of the union. They corner the people of the union and their families with the impossibility of advancing with their careers, changing their job posts, demoting them and not prolonging their contracts.

Over 90% of workers in the country are hired with short-term contracts. Losing a well paid job in a small town is a tragedy for the whole family. Also, unemployed workers that cannot find a job are affected by Decree Nº 3, popularly dubbed “Decree of struggle against parasites”.

To date, in the last three months, 10% of the 4000 members of the union in the Belaruskali have been forced to abandon it. Whether authorities will achieve their objective will depend of the unity of the collective of Belaruskali and the international solidarity of the workers’ movement.

Anton Semenovich

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