The ICFTU denounces attacks on trade union freedoms in Estonia and Belorussia

ICFTU Online..., 041/990225/LD, 25 February 1999

Brussels, 25 February 1999 (ICFTU OnLine): The Estonian government is preparing to take repressive measures against trade unions who have refused to comply with compulsory registration procedures, the deadline for which is March 1. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) says the registration procedures introduced by the Estonian authorities are contrary to international law. The insistence on such measures and the use of sanctions against organisations which do not comply with them send a very bad signal to the international organisations at a time when Estonia is negotiating its membership of the European Union stated ICFTU General Secretary Bill Jordan in Brussels.

The ICFTU recalled that Estonia has ratified Convention 87 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which bans all State interference in trade union affairs. According to the ICFTU, the compulsory registration procedures for trade unions, based on a law dating from 1996, impose unfair conditions on trade union organisations and even give the State the power to dissolve an organisation.

The ICFTU which, with the Estonia Association of Trade Unions (EAKL), has lodged a formal complaint with the International Labour Office against Estonia has urged the government of this country to scrupulously respect the recommendations of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association which is to examine the trade unions\u2019 complaint.

In Belorussia, where there have been recent reports of further questioning of independent trade unionists by the police, the ICFTU has denounced similar compulsory registration procedures contained in a decree by President Loukachenko adopted at the end of January. The decree demands the re-registration of trade unions, political parties and other public organisations and gives extraordinary powers to the State bodies responsible for granting or refusing recognition to these organisations. These powers may go as far as the dissolution of the organisations which have been refused recognition or who do not submit an application for registration by July 1 1999. The presidential decree is in contradiction with the Belorussian Constitution which provides for the freedom of association, and is also a violation of ILO Convention 87 ratified by Belorussia, says the ICFTU.

Several ICFTU complaints against Belorussia are under consideration by the ILO. They mainly concern the repression meted out to the independent trade union movement whose activities remain severely restricted by the dictatorial regime of President Loukachenko. Moreover, the ICFTU has just learnt that a new presidential decree is in preparation. It is apparently aimed at limiting the right to collective bargaining by obliging workers to renounce their collective agreement and sign individual, fixed term contracts.