Belarus

Capital: Minsk
Population: 9.47m. (2014 est.)

Belarus (as the Belarus Soviet Socialist Republic) ratified ILO Conventions No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) and No. 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 1956.

Independent unions have complained of repeated setbacks to their efforts to establish unions at the workplace level, although a number of unions at national level that have been established for many years do continue to operate. Under the Constitution all workers, except security and military personnel, may join and form unions of their own choosing, engage in collective bargaining and strike. However, the membership of independent unions is small and activists are subject to considerable harassment and intimidation. Union members have been arrested for activities including distributing literature and holding unauthorised meetings, refused permission to enter work places and forced out of their jobs. Enterprises have refused to recognise and negotiate with the independent unions.

An ILO Commission of Inquiry visited the country in 2004, prompted by complaints from international trade union bodies. The Commission made a number of recommendations for reform. Since then Belarus has in formal terms engaged with the ILO, adopting reforms that address some of the problems identified, but in a number of areas it has prevaricated or introduced amendments which appear to incompletely resolve the issues that have been complained of, specifically around: restrictions on the use of foreign funding to support political activities and strikes; refusals to grant permits for rallies and demonstrations; a lack of protection against discriminatory non-renewal of short term contracts for workers who join or associate with independent unions; a threshold requiring 10% membership to form a new workplace union; and a requirement that organisations register with a physical address.

In 2017 police raided the offices and homes of three individuals involved with the country's independent trade union movement. A union leader and a trade union accountant were both arrested. The union leader was subsequently released but the accountant has been held in detention. Both are charged with tax evasion offences, contrary to Article 243(2) of the Criminal Code. The charges relate to funds received from overseas, around which the State has introduced restrictive measures.

With 4 million members, the WFTU-affiliated Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FPB) is the largest trade union centre in the country, organising 30 sectoral unions. The 9000 member Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) is the ITUC's affiliate. It was formed in 1993, and its major affiliate is the 7000 member Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP), which was formerly the independent miners' union.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Belarus, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter:
conviction of trade unionists (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: raids and arrests of trade unionists (2017)

 

The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

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