From bounce-icftu-online-7984@forum.icftu.org Fri Jul 19 07:00:06 2002
Subject: ICFTU online: Towards the end of independent trade unionism in Belarus?
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002 12:38:22 +0200
To: “ICFTU Online” <icftu-online@forum.icftu.org>

Towards the end of independent trade unionism in Belarus?

ICFTU online, 138/190702/HC-JL, 19 July 2002

Brussels 19 July 2002 (ICFTU OnLine): After many months of carefully orchestrated efforts to liquidate the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB), its leadership decided to surrender to intense pressure from the Government and the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, by electing Leonid Kozik, a former deputy of the presidential administration, as president of the FTUB.

Leonid Kozik is an unknown in the trade union movement. Until two days ago, he didn’t play any role in the FTUB, and it was only because the regional council of Minsk took the initiative to include him in its representation, that he was able to participate in the Plenum, and subsequently the election for the post of President of the FTUB.

This election takes place against a background of systematic pressure against the FTUB, its members and activists to put an end to the independence of the trade union movement in Belarus. Recent events have included suppression of the check-off system, suspension of the social dialogue, support to “company” unions, and to all unions which would declare themselves independent from the FTUB. These pressures led many leaders of the FTUB to the conclusion that only a president close to the Lukashenko and to the Government of Belarus would allow the FTUB to maintain its activities.

The ICFTU strongly condemns this choice. The direct pressures organised by the public authorities on many delegates, to make sure that their delegates would be elected, shows that in accepting Kozik, the FTUB has also effectively surrendered independence vis--vis the political establishment. It is feared that this is only a first step in the “normalising” process of the trade union movement of Belarus. The fact that three trade unionists, selling “Belarus Chas”, the FTUB newspaper, have been taking in for questioning by the Belarus police, on July 17, is, in this sense, a source of great concern.

The ICFTU will continue to work with all trade unionists who consider that an independent, free and democratic trade union movement is more important than ever in the present situation in Belarus. It will use all means at its disposal to defend the fundamental rights of workers in Belarus, and will cooperate closely with the ILO, with its affiliates and all components of the international trade union movement in order to achieve this.