“Continue your search for freedom”: Trade unions of Poland and Italy stand in solidarity with peaceful protest in Belarus

by praca
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The Federation of Metalworkers of Italy and the “Solidarity” Trade Union of the Podlaskie Voivodeship of Poland have expressed their solidarity with the peaceful protests in Belarus and condemned the use of violence by the authorities.

“The Presidium of the Podlaskie Regional Board of the Independent Self-Governing ‘Solidarity’ Trade Union negatively evaluates the actions of the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenko in relation to the Belarusian society. The cruel violence used against participants in peaceful demonstrations expressing their disapproval of electoral frauds, violations of the law and fundamental freedoms of citizens is unacceptable and requires strong condemnation. We urgently demand the release of all those arrested, an end to repression and violence against citizens of Belarus.

On the 40th anniversary of the signing of the August Agreements in Poland and the creation of the ‘Solidarity’ Trade Union, we hereby express our support and solidarity to citizens of Belarus; we support their bold and peaceful demonstrations and protests. Continue your search for freedom! The example of Poland and ‘Solidarity’ shows that this is achievable.

The Presidium of the Podlaskie ‘Solidarity’ Branch supports the actions of the Polish authorities regarding the events in Belarus. The European Union authorities and the governments of all democratic countries must also take unambiguous and bold actions. We must support and facilitate the implementation of the idea of self-determination of the Belarusian society, introduce the principles of democratic rule of law and ensure the security of all Belarusians. We appeal to all Polish, European and global public, professional and political organizations to take positions that strongly condemn the behaviour of Belarusian authorities and express their approval and support for the citizens of Belarus, which they really need today.

We believe that strong international pressure will lead to the start of dialogue between the current Belarusian authorities and the society, and will allow working out satisfactory solutions that will allow Belarus to join the family of democratic states.”

Statement of the Italian Federation of Metal Mechanics (Fim CISL) on Belarus

“The Fim CISL expresses its outrage, anger and protest at the disproportionate violence, persecution and arrests directed at people peacefully protesting against the results of the presidential election held on August 9, 2020.

Independent observers report serious frauds, manipulations and violations committed before, during and after the election. Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime responded by cutting Internet access for several days, and are still arresting protestants and independent journalists.

Reportedly, at least one person was killed and many were hospitalized with severe injuries during three days of protests in Minsk and other cities in Belarus. According to reports, many people were detained and severely beaten, including union leaders who peacefully participated in the elections as independent observers.

Yan Roman, a journalist and activist of the Free Metalworkers’ Union (SPM), was brutally beaten up and detained at the police station, after going to inquire about the fate of his colleagues who had been arrested earlier.

During more than a quarter century of anti-democratic authoritarian rule, the international union movement has witnessed repressive rule and economic downturn accompanied by the disappearances of political opponents, and repressions of independent trade unions and their leaders. Most recently, the regime’s inability to manage COVID-19 lead to a further crisis of legitimacy, culminating in fraudulent results being announced after the recent election.

Lukashenko was declared the winner despite evidence that the choice of the majority was the complete opposite. This was the last straw, triggering protests throughout Belarus to demand a re-run of the election.

From the perspective of the global union movement, Belarus has a reputation for the continuous systemic violation of freedom of association and fundamental workers’ rights. This included the introduction of compulsory fixed-term contracts with the aim of intimidating workers, the denial of basic freedoms and the suppression of independent and free civil society institutions and trade unions.

The Fim Cisl expresses its solidarity and sympathy with the people, civil society and trade unions of Belarus. We stand for the universal principles of democracy, including freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of access to information as the fundamental prerequisites of a democratic society. The use of extreme measures such as stun grenades, tear-gas, rubber bullets and other military equipment against peaceful protests is unacceptable and will only lead to an escalation of the situation in the country.

Therefore, the Fim Cisl urges the Belorussian Government to immediately halt the violence, persecution and arrests, and release all imprisoned union leaders, activists, and civil society representatives.

The Belorussian Government must enter into constructive dialogue with representatives of civil society and carry out accurate and transparent elections with free access for independent observers and journalists.

The Fim Cisl joins the IndustriALL Global Union and the IndustriAll European Trade Union in their joint call on the international community, particularly the European Union, to use all necessary means to stop the anti-democratic and violent acts of the Belorussian Government, and to review the current political and economic relationship with Belarus.

We are strong together! (Written in Russian).”

Signed by Roberto Benaglia and Barbara Arsieni, the General Secretary and the Head of the International Office of the Fim Cisl Trade Union.

A huge number of letters of solidarity arrive at the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP). One of these letters came from the A1 Telecom Trade Union.

“Dear comrades! The union of A1 Telecom, the largest Austrian investor in Belarus, is clearly on your side. I hope you have already received this information. We wish you the best of luck and take care of yourself! Dr. Markus Stromayer, International Secretary, Austrian Federation of Trade Unions (OGB).

As representatives of the company’s employees and trade unions, we follow the latest developments in Belarus with great concern. The situation in Belarus is absolutely unacceptable, and the actions of the regime must be rejected in the strongest possible way. It cannot be that such a situation remains without consequences if a country in Europe violates human rights in this way. The regime was not before and it is not open to real changes even now. It continues to suppress democratic institutions, an independent civil society and trade union movement, and violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens. Many people, institutions and organizations are fighting to end the violence, harassment and arrest. From our point of view, it is necessary to strengthen support for the Belarusian civil society, including independent trade unions.

The BKDP has backed calls for a general strike to push for the president’s resignation and new democratic elections. Despite the repression of civil society and the risk of losing their jobs, thousands of people are on strike, demanding the resignation of President Lukashenko.

In this very politically unstable and delicate situation, we, A1 Telekom Austria Group, must be aware of our important role as a leading IT and communications company, as well as a major employer and investor in Belarus. In addition to the safety of our colleagues and their families, which is most important at this time, we must also protect our corporate values ​​in all countries where we operate and act in an ethical and moral manner.

Bulgaria is also in a politically unstable position and the internal situation at A1 Bulgaria is to a certain extent unsatisfactory. In both countries, Belarus and Bulgaria, we conduct large operations, and thousands of colleagues work with us.

In this context, we would like to recall some of our values, which were also signed by our executive management:

  • The A1 behaves with integrity and in accordance with ethical and moral principles;
  • The A1 promotes a culture of open communication and respect;
  • The A1 takes into account the changes in corporate responsibility as set out in the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which state that businesses must respect human rights in all of their activities;
  • The A1 recognizes the important role that trade unions and other workers ‘representations can play in representing workers’ interests. A1 will provide unconditional support and strict adherence to local union laws and provide the legal resources required to ensure proper union operations; and
  • The A1 and all of its divisions will be union-neutral, ensuring that its leaders create a free and open environment for the exercise of the right to association.

As employee representatives and union activists, we expect that we, as the A1 Telekom Austria Group, will act in accordance with our A1 corporate values, even in a politically volatile environment.”