The revolt against the authoritarian regime in Belarus has spread from the city streets, where thousands of protesters have been battling with police, to the workplaces. Here are statements by two groups of independent trade union activists
On Thursday 13 August workers at large enterprises – including chemical and food factories, and construction and transport companies – downed tools in protest at the monstrous surge of police violence and arrests. People are quitting the state-supported trade unions. Films and photographs of workers’ meetings, at which participants denounced police violence and the fraudulent election results, are spreading like wildfire across social media. Womens’ organisations are taking to the streets – against a president whose fury was provoked, especially, by the support for Svetlana Tikhonovskaya, the woman who dared to stand against him for election. Here are two appeals by independent trade union organisations that were published yesterday.
Open Appeal by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union to workers
The authorities’ actions – in falsifying the election results, breaching human rights, instigating mass arrests and beatings of peaceful protesters and passers-by across the whole country – could all lead to irreversible consequences for Belarus. We are hearing ever-louder announcements from the European Union and the United States, that they are ready to impose various sanctions, including economic ones, on Belarus as a state that is trampling cynically on the rights and freedoms of its citizens.
Closure of the western markets for our products and services would be a catastrophe for our enterprises. The impact of this would be borne first of all by ordinary workers, who are in a bad enough situation already.
To defend ourselves and our freedom of action at the workplace, we propose the following pattern of simple collective actions:
1. Quit the state’s social organisations, such as the [government-supported] Federation of Belarusian Trade Unions, [the pro-presidential civic-political association] Belaya Rus and the Belarusian Republican Union of Youth. If you remain in these organisations, you are actually confirming your support for [president] Aleksandr Lukashenko.
2. Join the independent trade unions at your workplace, and if there is not one – organise it yourself.
3. Organise a mass meeting, declare “no confidence” in the results of the elections, and send it to the Central Electoral Commission. Collect signatures of those who did not vote for Lukashenko.
4. Present demands to the management of your workplace, and the local authorities, for the cessation of aggression and violence on the part of the security services; for guarantees of safety for the enterprises’ workers and their families; of a guarantee that no-one will be dismissed on account of being seized [by the police] on the streets.
5. Record any mass meetings and demands in minutes; record videos; take photos and send this material to independent media.
In unity there is strength!
In solidarity, Maksim Poznyakov, president of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union.
This statement was published here on 13 August.
The Belarusian Independent Trade Union English-language page is here.
Belarusian Independent Trade Union contact details: Telephone.+375 17 424 18 80. Fax. +375 17 424 18 90. E-mail:[email protected]
An appeal by the recently-established Telegram channel ZabastovkaBY (Strike Belarus)
Belarus is in the grip of a protest movement ... and now many people are demanding that the factories be stopped, in order to stop police violence. But that is just the start.
We don’t just need a one-off strike for free elections. We need an organisation, that will rouse workers every time that the manager or boss “loses the plot”. All of us spend most of the day at our workplaces, and it is from the situation there, from the fear of losing our jobs, that the most oppressive unfreedom grows among us.
We need effective organisations of working people, constantly active, and independent of the authorities and the owners of companies.
Furthermore, such organisations are needed not only at the gigantic state-controlled industrial enterprises. Today the majority of Belarusians already work in the private sector, and the situation there is often no better than at the state-owned workplaces. And those private bosses, no less than the state enterprises, are “sponsors of the system”.
We hear about these issues less often, because there is not a single businessman who would want an organisation in his enterprise that could stop him feeding his appetites. But without organisation by working people, and without struggle in the private sector, that feeling of oppressive unfreedom that is suffered by most Belarusians will never disappear.
What we are fighting for:
►The democratisation of the political system;
►The immediate release of those who have been detained without cause at demonstrations;
►A ban on the privatisation of enterprises;
►No job losses;
►Abolition of Decree no. 3 “on the prevention of social parasitism”;
►A ban on fines and the cancellation of bonuses [in workplaces];
►Abolition of the contract [labour] system;
►Expansion of social welfare provision;
►No to the pension reform;
►For trade unions that stand up for our rights.
What to do:
Meet up with your colleagues outside of work time. Organise chats on social media and messaging networks. Work out which departments could most effectively stop production or the provision of services by striking. Join up with our resources, and at the right moment be ready to go on strike.
Translations by People & Nature