Belarus Union Action Gains Global Union Support

ICEM Update, No. 8/2001, 14 February 2001

Trade unions in Belarus are holding a National Day of Action today to demand a living wage and an end to restrictions on trade union rights.

The 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) is “alarmed by recently published facts and figures which clearly indicate an unprecedented decline of the standards of living in Belarus,” writes ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs in a message of support to ICEM-affiliated unions there.

“Existing structures have prevented the effective development of the national economy and triggered severe inflation,” Higgs argues. “Workers' salaries no longer reflect their true contribution to the society and can hardly keep them from the brink of poverty or ensure physical survival.”

The Belarus unions “stand as the only force that defends the right of the workers and their families to a decent life,” Higgs writes. “This determined attitude has put the unions under severe attack by the authoritarian regime, which the world community is observing with growing concern. I have addressed President Alexander Lukashenko and the Belarus government on several occasions, strongly protesting against the violations of union rights in Belarus.”

Pledging full international support to the Belarus unions' campaign, Higgs urges the country's government to “finally negotiate and sign a General Tariff Agreement with the unions”.