Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 23:34:47 -0600 (CST)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Repression Of Trade Unionists in Belarus
/** labr.global: 198.0 **/
** Topic: Repression Of Trade Unionists in Belarus **
** Written 4:49 PM Nov 6, 1998 by firstname.lastname@example.org in cdp:labr.global **
Brussels, November 6 1998 (ICFTU OnLine) The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has sent a protest message to the Belarussian authorities demanding the immediate release of trade unionists arrested yesterday (November 5) during a demonstration. According to information that has reached the ICFTU, seven people were arrested as they were about to hand over a letter to the authorities setting out their pay claims and their demands for better working conditions.
The presentation of the letter was the culmination of a demonstration organised by the independent trade unions in the Belorussian capital, Minsk. The 2000 or so workers who took part also called for the resignation of President Lukashenko. Those arrested included one of the top leaders of the independent trade union of Belarus.
“The current regime has brought us to poverty” stated the president of the independent mineworkers' union of Soligorsk, Victor Babaed. The average monthly salary in Belarus is 25 dollars and many workers have only 15 dollars a month to survive on. The economic crisis in Russia, which accounts for 70 per cent of Belarus's foreign trade, has further exacerbated the situation.
The arrest of the trade unionists in Minsk is by no means an isolated incident, believes the ICFTU. In a report published earlier this year the confederation denounced the systematic violation of trade union rights in the country, pointing to arrests, repression and harassment against independent trade unionists. A presidential decree issued in 1995 severely limits trade union activity, banning the collection of dues, the signing of collective agreements and the use of workplace premises for trade union meetings.