Speech of the Aleksandr Jaroshuk, head of the Belorussian Agro-Industrial Trade Union

Labour Russia on the Net, News, 17 July 2000

July 12, Minsk. Dear Delegates! Dear Guests!

Many events have happened during the five years between the Second and the Third Congresses of our Union. Let us remember 1995. It was the time after a dramatic period of re-assessment of values and collapse of seemingly unshakable institutions of the Communist Party and Komsomol; the period that touched upon, although failed to ruin, the most massive workers' organization—trade unions. The reason of their survival is simple—they turned out to be the simplest and closest to common people.

It was not by chance that this idea was focal in the course of current election campaign. It was repeatedly referred to at the shop-floor, district, city, and oblast level trade union conferences.

I believe, that this fact may be considered not only as the best appreciation, but also as the highest form of confidence which must be given ultimate protection and carried safe through times and troubles. This is the first conclusion we may make when analyzing our activities of the reporting period. To save our organizations as they are—is our basic strategy for the future.

To carry out this task is not too easy. The Agrarian and Industrial trade union, being an organic part of the sector and sharing its painful fate, reflects in itself and its members all processes - regrettably negative—happening inside the industry. We have to state that the agrarian and industrial complex and its base, agricultural production, are still in a critical situation, which is only natural because the state has been persistently trying to pull economy out of crisis at the expense of rural areas. In effect, we got the tiresome disparity of prices: prices for energy, industrial products and services have been growing 3.3 times faster than these for agricultural products. Unfortunately, the trend has not been brought to a stop so far.

It may not be proper to refer to the situation in the agrarian and industrial complex and bring to the fore the principle, as we believe, errors made by the State in the agricultural policy, at our trade union Congress. You know how touchy may be our administration in respect of any criticism in this respect. The more so, when it comes out from trade unions.

It may also be true that trade unions should not be dealing with economic problems and making judgments on forming the country's economic policy. Because trade unions are not political organizations.

But would it be proper when speaking about our primary mission of

protecting interests of those working in our sector and existing multiple problems only to name the challenges? Would it be proper to avoid exposing the roots when speaking about results? May we be then called a serious and responsible organization?

We need to recall a wise rule: if you are nor dealing with politics, just wait and politics will start dealing with you.

Having this in mind and being driven by our common interests, being preoccupied with the fate of our sector and our nation, being true citizens and real patriots, we have no rights to be outside viewers only witnessing the processes in the national economy. A trade union will never win authority and members respect if it passes by the problem of wages. Passes by without exposing roots and insisting on finding solutions. Thus our organization trespasses the boundaries of economic and social spheres and enters politics. This is the fact to accept.

No secret, today many would like to have trade unions as a well trained, tamed and controlled pet. Or, to put it in modern terms, a driving belt or a buffer. Shall I comment on it? For any soberly minded person—the Congress delegates including—it is clear that in such a capacity the organization will gradually become outdated and lose its meaning, authority and influence. Surprisingly, such a role will not suit the powers as well.

Any normal state carrying out responsible policy is interested in strengthening rather than weakening its institutions. It needs strong, rather than weak trade unions, as the ultimate goal of any state and any trade union despite all differences is the same—to improve quality of citizens' life.

On the other hand, we need to bear in mind that trade unions' activities is just a “mirror” reflecting the nature and the outcomes of the social and economic policy carried out in the country. As we all know, there is no rational in blaming a mirror for poor images.

The urgency of radical reforms in the agrarian policy is evident. The resources of resuscitated command economy appeared to be scarce and could only support a short period of stabilization in 1996-1997. An economic miracle has not happened. And it will never happen with the erroneous pricing policy and absence of any transformations in agriculture.

It would not be serious to explain the current protracted crisis by unfavorable weather conditions. Yes, it is true that for over three years it has not been helping the farmers. However, it is also true that so far no practical measures to protect this vulnerable sector against harsh weather have been taken.

Objectively speaking, the National government is doing its utmost by financing the agrarian and industrial sector from the budget and extra-budgetary sources much more than our neighbors. The question is not in the amount of money but in the way the money is spent. Our viewpoint is that it is spent irrationally.

What a Master is usually doing when his financial and material resources are in short supply? He is concentrating them on the best lands in order to get “maximum” guaranteed return. While the worst lands are left out of the process. This is being done in neighboring Lithuania and Poland. This is started to be done in Russia and Ukraine where , although in pains and labors, efforts are made to form landowners. It is high time we realize that the country has exhausted all its potential of extensive development in agriculture. As we do not have and will never have practically free energy and material resources, as we will never be able to process land and protect plants at least at the Soviet time level, we need to very seriously reconsider the very fundamentals of our agricultural business. It is worth considering why in the USA they plow 27 percent of the arable lands, in Western Europe 40-50, while in Belarus the figure is 70 percent! Why do we have the largest arable land ratio per capita in Europe! Consider a question why rich America and Europe are not plowing all their lands while poor Belarus is doing it the other way round? Or putting it differently, they are so rich because the can calculate well, and we are poor because our ideology is “to use the land up to the last acre of barren sand”. And we put this ideology above an economic or just common sense. Let us take the Minsk oblast. It may happen that, having plowed perennial grass, hayfields and pastures, even with the crop capacity of 10-15 metric hundredweight, they will produce 2 million metric tons of grain. The country as whole may reach its objective of 9 million tons. However, after reaching these “outstanding achievements” in such a way—no one is daring to do it differently—it would be much cheaper to buy grain in China despite huge transportation costs. To say nothing about neighboring Poland where farmers dot not bother cultivating lands with the yield less than 15 metric hundredweight.

It is high time we change the philosophy of agricultural production and bring it closer to generally accepted standards. There is no sense in lulling ourselves with the showings of the past like the volumes of production per capita. Nobody it the world takes them into account today. Production is the target in itself. In the open market economy one needs to produce the very much that can be sold. In other words, competitiveness is the measure of success.

What is happening with the competitiveness of our produce? We are gradually losing positions not only in the external, first of all Russian, markets, but in our domestic market as well. Cattle-breeding has been chronically bringing losses. According to the official statistics half farms were unprofitable last year. And according to unofficial statistics only from 10 to 15 farms are really managing to make both ends meet.

In case we stick to the hang-the-expense approach in future, the sector will continue losing grounds. While climatic conditions will remain hostile. This is not a prophecy, but a vision of a poor picture resulting from a specific agricultural policy in the country. The policy which is orientated to the past instead of the future. The policy which is orientated at sticking to outdated economic ways instead of looking for new ones. No positive developments are indeed possible unless we have got economic interests of Masters either in agriculture, or in industry. No doubt, we need to improve discipline and responsibility. However, to rely solely upon these measures is useless and fruitless. No nation has become affluent by means of force.

No progress is possible if we stuck to the present-day format of our agriculture. Naturally, undertaking reforms in the agrarian and industrial complex is a risky and adventurous endeavor. Because it involves vital interests of thousands. However, we need to put together our courage and patience, and to give start to the process without being afraid of temporary failures. It is true for new forms of ownership in agriculture, joint-stock processing enterprises, food staff or service companies, or organizations.

We have to realize that it was much easier to collectivize means of production. The reverse way to economic freedom is much harder. Still it must be made. The fist step must be made without delay, as we are not in the position to waste time.

The alternative to our idleness will be further deterioration of agriculture and rural economy. The process is gaining momentum spreading despair over rural citizens which is reflected in sweeping alcoholism. Can we speak about any sort of attractive image of a rural way of life? It was not by chance that in the last nine years the payrolls of kolkhozes and sovkhozes shrinked twofold. Almost 90 percent of rural migrants to cities is the age group of 16-29. To make this pessimistic more complete we can only add demographic statistics:

the level of mortality in the country two times exceeds the birth-rate. In certain regions even three of four times!

Urgent measures must be taken in order to revive the country. The Trade Union of Agrarian and Industrial Complex while recognizing a historic significance of such a measure, is offering its assistance and readiness to share responsibility with the government and administration in carrying out this noble mission. Including unpopular but courageous decisions related to transforming existing industrial relations and granting to peasants true economic freedom. We are ready to use our authority and influence for explaining the necessity and importance of such steps for the future of the sector and the nation.

At present, the iron grip of the state regulation, or rather, dictatorship, has brought agriculture and processing industry—and the country as a whole—to the brink of degradation and bankruptcy. Workers in these sectors do not get decent wages, as their average pay for the last five months of 25,000 Roubles or 25 USD cannot be called decent. So, our Union finds it proper to resort to its right to protest using all applicable ways and methods. In its nature the protest will be strictly legal and constructive.

I am stressing the attributes: legal and constructive, as any form of extremism or violence is impossible. Moreover, the Republican committee knows no other forms of relations with the governmental and administrative bodies but cooperation, social partnership and interaction at all levels: shop-floor, district, oblast, or Republican. .

We will never permit irresponsible actions of forceful heating emotions, provoking conflicts and confrontations. Whatever tension may appear, it shall be resolved through dialog, negotiations, and mutual compromise. We are fully aware of the role and position of trade unions. However, we are fully aware of the role and position of administrative bodies. They have not only enormous power, they are carrying tremendous responsibility for the country and the people. While bearing it in mind, we will never let ourselves take a posture of fault-finders and populists, or endeavor attempts to win cheap authority through catchy slogans. We find it unacceptable to profiteer on the difficulties and problems of the nation and the sector, because besides statutory requirements, we are driven by lofty principles of ethics and morals.

Love, as we know, must be reciprocal. And as our relations hardly look like love, we will not be over demanding in this respect. However, we shall be demanding on the respect and strict compliance with the Constitution, the Law on “Trade Unions”, other legislation regulating our activity. We cannot permit or agree upon impudent interference into our internal affairs or attempts to take command over our organization. Unfortunately, due to well known reasons, the authorities here in the Center and in localities often resort to such actions. There is no need to remind the delegates of the tension that accompanied current reporting and election campaign. We could only wonder how certain officers, say in the Vitebsk Executive Committee, tried to put very tough pressure on the trade unionists. Probably, they have already resolved all problems of the agrarian sector and have magnificently improved their agricultural production, together with the wages and living standards of the rural population, and they have to do nothing but interfere into other organizations' affairs and check their compliance with their Constitution?

Having taken a look at a gloomy picture of life in the Vitebsk region one can hardly come to such a conclusion. Similar fervor in trying to interfere into trade union activities can be discovered at the district or shop-floor levels. In the Minsk oblast there was a notorious case of Mr. V.Golovnev, former Head of the “Chervenskoje” enterprise, who declared a “holy war” against the trade union organization. And he was not the only one. V. Bourdyko, Director of the Krasnoznamensk forage factory demonstratively left the union, and 50 other employees followed the suit. It is still unclear, however, whether this manager wanted to get rid of a trade union or of control on the side of the workmen's team? Those who are acquainted with the situation there, know that there is a strong need in such a control.

Regrettably, those who would like to form their relations with trade union on the basis of force may still be found from time to time among administrators. We cannot treat such facts as normal. I repeat, we have nothing to fight for with the local administrators and managers. We are not seeking a special role in the country. And besides, the state of affairs in the Agrarian and Industrial sector is such that it requires concerted efforts of the administrators, managers and trade unionists. The only winners will be common cause and our long-suffering people for many years carrying upon their shoulders an enormous load of insoluble problems.

Incidentally, this is the way of doing things by far-seeing and wise leaders. They have properly appreciated trade union potential in creating favorable working environment in workmen's teams in the present-day critical situation.

Among those who are guided by common interests are heads of departments in the District Executive Committees of Ivanovo, Brest, Pinsk, Orsha, Dokshitsi, Verkhnedvinsk, Zhitkovichi, Dobrush. Elsk, Novogrudky, Mosty, Voronovo, Sloutsk, Molodechno, Kletsk, Krichev, Cherikov, Gorki.

In each specific case they apply their own forms and methods of interacting with trade unions. However, each of the above regional heads or team leaders share the same approach: looking for common points with the trade unions, and avoid conflicts.

We can only welcome such examples and multiply them, making a common norm.

The development of relations and interactions with the powers based upon social partnership principles will remain a cornerstone of the trade union strategy and tactics for the forthcoming period. Any organization cannot work properly without it.

A specific activity which must be attached a pivotal role is signing collective agreements. This is exactly the case which helps to put together and identify all common interests of trade unions, bodies of state administration and employers.

As we know, at the Republican level, the Ministry of Agriculture and our Trade Union Committee have signed a General Tariff Agreements. The current Agreement is valid for the years 1998-2000. The Agreement is based upon activities directed at forming friendly working conditions for enterprises; legal, social and economic protection of employees in the Agrarian and Industrial Sector; enforcement and extension of the minimum social guaranteed provided by the state.

Have the partner fulfilled their liabilities? We may note that in some points they have. It is true in respect of the contests for a better output in the course of major agricultural campaigns. It is basically true in respect of the regulations and norms of remuneration on the basis of the Unified tariff scale, and working out and further development of legal instruments and recommendations dealing with labor safety, working hours and recreation.

However, the general situation with the General Tariff Agreement implementation leaves an impression far from being dramatic. Black color is prevailing in this picture. Let us go back to the ill-fated wages problem. The Tariff Agreement provided for bringing wages closer to the Republican average. In effect, what we have got is the following: in 1996 wages of rural workers made 61.4 percent of the average in the national economy, in 1997—57.6 percent, in 1998 - 58.9 percent, and in 1999- 56.6 Agreement. In many enterprises, the provisions of neither Tariff, nor General Agreements, have been fulfilled in relation to the payment wages on time, and their indexing. Urgent measures, periodically taken in order to pay out debts, are helping poorly to resolve the problem. On the contrary, they drive the disease deep inside, deeper and deeper. At present, the arrears make the amount of a monthly total. All this produced various negative repercussions, including wild-cat strikes at certain enterprises.

These are serious events, and we need to respond promptly. As these are cases to test maturity of an organization and its potential to be up to the workers' expectations. The Republican Committee shall be more demanding on implementing this -as well as other—provisions of the Tariff Agreement.

The same goes to collective agreements. Last year, 4730 agreements were signed at the enterprises and organization under the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as 6 oblast and 116 district agreements. Despite all shortcomings rooted in the failure to comply with the Tariff Agreement in relation to wages payments and labor protection, and existing cases of formalism, the collective agreement practice may be given a positive estimate. We can find many examples when they contained provisions for accommodation benefits to newly weds and families having many children, or social allowances for purchasing individual live-stock, child-birth benefits, etc. We can only welcome including standards of targeted support for developing individual plots of land, laying in forage, and purchasing fuel.

This is exactly the case when specific leaders- negotiating parties to the agreement—pass their compliance test with the responsibility standards. I cannot help mentioning the best practices. The utmost compliance with the provisions of collective agreements protecting social and economic interests of employees was reached in the regions of Baranovichi, Zhabinka, Dokshitsi, Novogrudok, Sloutsk, Cherven, Dobrush, Buda-Koshelevo, Krichev, Kirov, and other regions, the kolkhozs “Krasny Novoselets” ( Borissov district), Kirov kolkhoz (Poukhovici district), the Kutuzov and “Prinemanski” kolkhozs in Novogrudok, “Rodina” (Kalinkovichi district), sovkhoz “Pirevichski” (Zhlobin district), Joint-stock company “Gomel Spartak Confectionary”, Orsha Bakery Complex, and many others. Valuable experience have been accumulated; it must be extended to all workmen's teams throughout the sector.

Another important area that traditionally has been in the trade unions focus of attention, despite the ongoing transformation, is labor protection. Due to constant financial shortages and worn out technology and equipment, the Agrarian and Industrial Sector has been leading in the area of traumatism. Last year only, 117 workers died and 179 were seriously injures at the sectoral enterprises. All in all, within the year 3665 employees suffered different injuries. The statistics that reminds reports from combat operations. Indeed, the impression is that the whole industry has become a huge battlefield and a peaceful grain-grower—a soldier—fighting in the endless battle for grain, milk, and percentage. Where there is a battle, there is a toll. A la guerre come a la guerre.

We can only add that the battle is fought by a very poorly equipped army. He have already mentioned a poor condition of hardware. The same goes to working clothes: the provision of drivers makes 30-50 percent. About one third of repairing shops are not heated in winter time.

We cannot stay indifferent to such a situation. Although there are no more technical inspectorates, still we have got the institute of public commissions and labor safety inspectors. Their legal authorities make it possible to provide effective control and demand due safety conditions from the managers. Why don't we use the tools to the full.

There is no doubt that today, tomorrow, and in the more distant future the trade union related problems will show an aggravating trend. However, it does not presuppose any decrease of our activity in certain areas. Say, recreation of children. Naturally, summer recreation camps are giving a lot of headache to each of 45 District Committee Chairs where they have got the facilities. And to the rest of trade union activists into the bargain. But at the same time, last year the facilities provided care and recreation to about 36 thousand children, and the kids and their parents are very thankful for it to trade unions. Besides, this activity may serve as a powerful means of promoting objectives and activities of our union. Shall we abandon this troublesome practice? Certainly not, as Ivan Gritskevich, Chairman of the Dokshitsiy District Trade Union Committee would say. And this is true, because it was the children summer camp that made him one of the most authoritative figures in the District. The same may be said about many other district committees chairs.

Hence, the third conclusion: there are not matters of no importance for a trade union. Small activities and matters form, as bricks, the whole edifice of our authority and influence. There can be no matters of secondary importance when it deals with people: be it a protest action against poor wages in the capital, distribution of Swedish and German humanitarian aid in Moghilev, protection of a rank-and-file employee against lay-offs at any enterprise or organization. A normal state of affairs is when every worker is aware that at any moment of trouble he or she will immediately get trade union assistance: material, moral, or legal. He or she will find a friendly and participating attitude on behalf of trade union staff and activists.

Frankly speaking, it is taking place in many places, due to a mighty force of trade union activists, both paid—although they are few: 382 out of 5,162 chairs of shop-floor organizations—or carrying the whole burden of trade union problems voluntarily. They make our unique Golden reserve. Many of then sacrifice their personal time and interests, sympathizing with the people and helping them in a tough present-day situation. At a time of trouble people tend to get together. To get together and to move forward their leaders, those who may take the lead and who suffers somebody else's pain as their own. My presentation, as well the Congress, is too short to recognize all their names.

Unfortunately, we can also provide another sort of examples. We failed to protect our ranks from some persons who have nothing to do with trade unionism and who do not care about problems of our members. Who have got no moral rights to work with the people. Some of them have learned the nature of trade union work in a special way: they are sitting quietly on friendly terms with everybody, to be on the safe side. Another kind are those who are ready to raise a big noise about any case, however, when it comes to practical actions, they will nor raise a finger. These are all side effects of our human resource policy and absence of a principle approach when evaluating their performance. In effect Messrs. N. Groushko and M. Kurban were re-elected as Chairmen of the Brest City Committee and the Petrikov District Committee respectively. The performance of some trade union leaders has been found unsatisfactory, including that of Mr. F. Gotovtsev, Chairman of the Smolevichi District Committee.

Although such examples are rare, this is the case when one fly spoils the ointment and to question the authority of the whole organization. I do not think that we need special remedies how to get rid of such unwanted phenomena. The principles of selection, deployment and training and upgrading of personnel are well known. What we need is make them working, while the methods may be various.

One of them is personnel training. There was no district, city, or oblast conference, at which the issue was not raised and considered. Indeed, the lack of finance is a serious matter. Still it cannot justify us, first and foremost, members of the Republican Committee, of our inefficiency. There is a lot of ways to organize a small-budget training process. As, for instance, in the Moghilev Oblast Committee (Chairman S.Kroutovtsov). They skillfully combine practical sessions with theory. Similar formats are applied in the Gomel Oblast Committee and others.

Taking into account the crucial importance of the problem, the newly elected Republican Committee shall consider it a top priority.

The newly elected Committee will also have to look for the answers to the most difficult issue of the organization finance. Just to say that it is difficult is to say nothing. We have already mentioned monthly average wages in the agricultural production. However, the rate of remuneration of other categories of those working in the sector, as well as in food and processing industries and service, may also strike one' s imagination. Regrettably, the scarce membership dues are not always properly transferred to the union accounts. The problem of debts, reaching 345.5 million Roubles, has become a real disaster. The money deducted from the paid wages is used as a working capital of the debtors enterprises. Hence, the elected bodies at all levels, from a trade union shop-floor up to the Republical Committee have no means to fulfill their constitutional functions and to finance social actions as provided by collective and tariff agreements. For the same reason, several months arrears of the paid staff remuneration have become a common practice. These are conditions under in which trade union activists have to work in many regions. No civilized way out of the dead-end has been found so far, despite all possible undertaken measures, including the support and assistance of the government and local administration But we must find it. We shall knock on all doors in the center and in the provinces, we shall negotiate and persuade and remove all bottlenecks on the routes of money. As to the last resort we may apply to the court. This is not the best means as it is fraught with well known outcomes. But, it looks as if we will have to use it.

We will have to apply extraordinary means of control to the leaders who for many years under different pretexts have not found it possible to transfer the dues.

On the blacklist are the “Adamenki” sovkhoz ( Liozno district), the kolkhozs “Krasnoje Znamja”( Postavy district) and “Zavety Iljicha”

(Gorodok district), the Lenin and “Za Rodinu” kolkhozs (Gomel district), “Leninets”(Zhlobin district) the Kalinin kolkhoz (Kalinkovichi), the Volodarski sovkhoz (Korma district), the kolkhozs “Verny Put”, “Bolshevik”, “17 September”(Volozhin district), “Budaunik” (Luban district), the Lenin kolkhoz (Mstislavl), “22-d Congress” (Krichev district), “Sosnovka” (Klimovichi district), the “Novy Dvor” sovkhoz (Svisloch district). Understandably, it was not their long-cherished dream to get on the list. We need to consider their situation. However, we have to apply stricter means of control to the leaders who are too liberal in relation to somebody else's financial resources.

As is clear from the above, the complicated and conflicting processes took place in our Trade Union during the reporting period, which found its reflection in the strength of our organizations.

In five years the strength dropped down by 279 thousand members and made 1 ,084,000. How shall we treat the statistics? It is rather hard to interpret it unambiguously. On the one hand, the drop down by over 20 percent is a reason for concern. On the other, this is not a reason to panic. First, because the number of the employed in the sector decreased proportionally in the same period. Secondly and most importantly, our major problem are still due to happen. Let us be frank, one hundred percent membership in many workmen's teams is marked with inertia of the past. In case the sector starts reforms, private owners will inevitably come to the fore despite all attempts to slow down the process, and trade union will find it much more difficult to maintain their membership. Then there will come the moment of truth: out authority and influence will be severely and fully checked. Hence the recipe how to get protected against serious complications. It is simple: to keep activity of each organization and its capacity to protect workers' interests. At the same time we need to think about ways of improving motivation and attractiveness of trade union membership, first of all, for the young. Because these are the reserves for maintaining the membership and securing the future.

Dear Delegates!

In its daily activities during the reporting period the Republican Committee was doing its best to keep pace with the time and tackle emerging problems. Nine Plenums were held in five years which considered the most critical issues related to the functioning of the Trade Union and its local units. Thirty two sittings of the Republican Committee Presidium took place to analyze matters requiring a collective solution. Visitors reception has been held regularly; consultations on the legal problems of wages, labor and housing have been offered to the public.

Amendments have been inserted to the drafts of the Labor and Housing Codes, laws on trade unions, labor protection, recovery of damage to the life and health of citizens, rules of calculating the total duration of leaves, regulations on investigating and recording industrial accidents and diseases, decrees of the Council of Ministers related to the labor protection and trade unions control of it.

Proposals have been moved forward as to cancel producing technological equipment and applying techniques which are not in compliance with the labor and ecological safety standards. Similar proposals have been made in relation to introducing economic measures motivating enterprises to provide safe and friendly working environment for the workers, equipping them with working clothes and footwear, as well as means of individual protection; proposals have been moved forward to improve living conditions of those employed in the sector.

We have not forgotten cultural issues, including those of physical culture and sports. We have contributed to holding amateur arts contests at enterprises, kolkhozs and sovkhozs. And just imagine, our athletes managed to become winners of the Republican Intersectoral Trade Union Competition. Shall we not be proud?

However, I have not endeavored to draw a complete picture of the Republican Trade Union Committee activities within the reporting period. As life itself, it cannot be covered by any report. Naturally, I could have left unmentioned some important details. Most probably, some would disagree with above estimates of the situation and proposals how to find solutions to many a problem of our Trade Union. But it means that we have something to discuss, and I hope the delegates will use the opportunity to the full.

Could the Republican Committee work better? Of course it could. In a way of self-criticism I may confess that sometimes we were lacking tolerance and endurance; sometimes we were too hasty in our estimates and conclusions; sometimes we took immature decisions concerning specific trade union matters. We have not used to the full the potential of cooperation with the Sectoral Ministry and other bodies of administration. All these shortcomings have decreased the efficacy of our operations and provided our rank-and-file members with well justified reasons for claims.

However, with this variety of opinions and estimates, I dare make a conclusion that the Republican Committee have managed to carry out organizational and ideological management of the trade union, and to work out acceptable strategies and tactics relevant to the specific situation. It has saved and developed its traditions and enthusiasm, re-established its authority which our opponents have to reckon with. The power of voice of our Trade Union has not been lost; it is heard in the forefront among concerted forces acting under the umbrella of our Federation.

Now it is important not to stop where we are. We will pass through more trials of life and test our capacity to fulfill the mission of protecting workers' interests. We shall not cherish illusions about future, however we shall not stay idle and give in to difficulties. We have at our possession everything to overcome them: a well structured and dirigible organization; a clear vision of our target; assurance of our right. The only thing we have to do is to move forward steadily, in accordance with our Constitution, and to implement our plans at the level of a workmen's team, a district, a region, the country. Only in this case we may justify our existence as a workers' organization for workers.

And finally! Dear Delegates. Today we are due to elect new Republican Committee and our Leader for the term to follow. The choice is for you. However, I can say that personally I will regard it as honor to lead your organization in future. I will say frankly: I want it and I am ready to pass through a troubling and indeed risky election procedure.

Today it is troubling and risky not only due to natural human sentiments of a candidate. Some representatives of the government managed to make a routine voting procedure and the Congress itself serious political actions aimed at disrupting my re-election by all possible means. No need to mention the methods applied by my opponents; they are illegal in nature and shameful in form. Believe, none of you have ever been confronted with this sort of blackmailing and treats. One can only wonder at the primitive conduct of those guided with their beloved ideology of suppression and the way they have been trying to get rid of the unwanted trade union leader. They tried their best….but you know the rest. I got the publicity I could hardly dream of. So, in a way I must be thankful to those who took part in my “spin off”, using modern political slang.

Now, closer to business. Dear Delegates. I ask for your support and your votes not because I find my own candidature the only worthy one. It is your right to choose. But please remember: you will choose not only your Chairperson. It will be a more important choice between your dignity and freedom on the one hand, and being among many of those who are controlled and manipulated by an alien will, on the other. And this choice is much more important than the Chairperson's election. Indeed, it is going to be a moment of truth, a sort of a critical exam. The most critical, perhaps, in your life. And not only on your own life, but also in your children's and grandchildren's life. Or, as it may turn, in the life of the Nation.

During a bit more than a year I did not ruin the organization, neither I raised it high. However, we all managed to make its voice heard. So that the opponents are spending billions for fighting against the ideas of a trade union leader. Is his power indeed so sweet? It is only too sad, that now a piece of constructive criticism expressed in proper words may draw a so painful and aggressive response of the power that be. What shall we expect of the future?

There is another well known point of view: everything used to be quiet without Jaroshuk. I am not in a position to evaluate this quietness and what it meant. You know it pretty well. I do not think we need to come back to that time. One thing goes without doubts: if they do it, they are scared and they have to reckon with us. This is an achievement in itself.

I would like to repeat what I said at the Plenum where many of you were participating. If you elect me—you may rely on me. Many people know well that Jaroshuk is a reliable person: he has never let anybody down; he has betrayed no one. He has never been engaged in anything foul. I will be the same, and in the same way I will be form my relations with you and improve the organizational authority, in case I am elected.

Among the audience I recognize familiar and dear faces. We have been knowing each other only a year or so but my feeling is that it has been all my life. I realize, it is a painful decision and many of you are taken by natural human fears. But I am sure you will put together your inner forces and overcome the fears. Do dot let these disgusting and sticky feelings overcome your honesty. Otherwise, never in your life you will get redeemed of the sin of treason.

Dear Delegates! I have always been optimistic. And will remain such. The good is stronger that the evil, which we will attempt to prove today. And we will be a success. I believe in you, my dearest comrades.

God bless you.

Thank you.