Belorussian Agro-Industrial Trade Union Criticizes Lukashenko's Economical Policy and Repels Governmental Efforts to Establish Control over Trade Unions

Labour Russia on the Net, 12 July 2000

The Third Congress of the Agrarian and Industrial Trade Union of Belorussia was held in Minsk on July 12, participating 142 delegated from all regions of the Republic and representing over one million of trade union members of the food processing and agricultural sectors.

The Belorussian authorities are showing their discontent with the Republican Trade Union Committee which dares criticize agrarian and economic official policies in the rural areas where the situation continues to deteriorate and wages arrears grow. On average, the total wages debt in the rural regions makes at present a monthly pay of all workers in the sector.

While setting up the Congress, the delegates experienced tough pressure on the side of the authorities who were aiming at removing Alexander Jaroshuk, Trade Union Chairman, from his position. Namely, at six a.m. of the Congress day, one delegate was summoned to a governmental agency where he was told to think hard about his and his children fates and either to abstain from taking part to the Congress, or to vote in line with the given recommendations. The Federation of Trade Unions Belorussian is planning to inform the Prosecutor's Office on this case as such actions contradict not only the International Law, but also the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.

Besides, in the course of selecting delegates to the Congress, the local Administrations put their pressure upon regional trade union structures in order to get elected those who could vote for the candidatures suitable for the governmental bodies. In effect, among the Congress participants there were non-members of the Union, although in accordance with the Union Constitution, only Union members can be elected to its governing bodies, including Congresses.

At the very start the Credentials committee proposed to recognize null and void the mandates of the delegates who were non members of the Agrarian and Industrial Union and had been elected by regional conferences illegally. In effect, five mandates were nullified, mostly belonging to the representatives of regional powers. All in all, the number of voting delegates made 137.

Due to the pressure upon the delegates, the election of Chairperson of the Republican Trade Union Committee appeared the most stressful issue on the agenda. Yury Moroz, Minister of Agriculture, was moved forward as an alternative candidate to the Trade Union Chairman Alexander Jaroshuk. The former was seconded by two kolkhoz directors and staff members of the Belorussian Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The delegates took a decision to refer to secret vote, as open voting could provoke an even stronger pressure by Governmental bodies upon many delegated on their arrival back home. Out of 137 voting delegates, 105 were in favor of Mr. Jaroshuk; 29 supported the Minister, and three cards were found invalid.

In effect, despite very tough pressure, the majority of delegates expressed their support to the acting Chairman A. Jaroshuk and confirmed his authority for the next five years. After it, the Congress elected the Organization governing bodies and amended the Constitution.

The delegates considered the Belarussian Agrarian and Industrial Union's accession to the International Union of Workers of Food and Tobacco Industry, Agriculture, and Allied Trades (IUF). They delegated preparing all necessary papers to the Republican Trade Union Committee.

As observers at the Congress were: Vladimir Goncharik, Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions Belorussian; Frank Hoffer, Chief Expert of the ILO Moscow Office; Vadim Borissov, Representative of the ICFTU in CIS; Regional representatives of the International Trade Union Secretariats: IUF—Cyril Bouketov; UNI—Olga Vinogradova; ICEM—Andrei Mrost; the Netherlands Trade Union Center FNV—Leo Messman; Eugeny Sidorov, FNPR International Secretary; Alexander Shershukov, Editor-in Chief of the “Solidarity” Trade Union Central Russian newspaper; Leonard Palij, First Deputy Chair of the Moldova National Federation of Agriculture and Food Industry Trade Union Association; and Vladimir Chepur, Chairman of the Ukrainian AIC Trade Union Federation and Member of the IUF Coordinating Committee in Central and Eastern Europe.

When making comments on the Congress, Frank Hoffer, Chief Expert of the Moscow ILO Bureau, noted that in accordance with the ILO standards, Governmental Ministries have no rights to intervene into trade union electoral processes. Vladimir Goncharik, Chairman of the Trade Union Federation Belorussian, added that at present pressure is being put non only upon this particular Trade Union but upon all unions as well, trespassing beyond the limits not only of common wisdom, but of the Law and Morals as well.