Gennadyi Fedynich: one must not hide behind the protection of workers’ interests

by yuras
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The BKDP-affiliated organisations have neither discussed, nor adopted any decisions with respect to possible sanctions from the ILO.

Belarus is once again included in the special paragraph of the ILO. This decision will be announced by the International Labor Organization Standards Committee.

For two decades, for a rare year, Over the last two decades, the country has rarely avoided the inclusion in a special paragraph of the ILO for the violations of the rights of independent trade unions and workers, which have continuously worsened. A natural question arises: how effective is this mechanism in relation to the official Minsk?

The leader of the BKDP, deputy head of the ILO Administrative Council, Alexander Yaroshuk admitted that official Minsk deserved to repeat the fate of Myanmar. However, he opposed the imposition of tough sanctions.

This is how the head of the BKDP himself explained his decision:

-Together with the international trade union movement, we agreed that all the consequences of this radical decision would not fall on the shoulders of our home-grown junta, just as they did not fall on the shoulders of the military junta of Myanmar, but on the shoulders of the country’s citizens, first of all, the working people. Therefore, they decided to limit themselves to including Belarus in a special paragraph of the ILO as a country that is chronically sick with systematic violations of the rights of workers and trade unions. We will be healing it from this serious illness.

How effective is the “special paragraph of the ILO” on the Belarusian authorities? The correspondent talked about this with Gennady Fedynich, the leader of the REP trade union, which is part of the BKDP.

-Alexander Yaroshuk notes that “the ruling regime did everything to make Belarus repeat the inglorious path of Myanmar” – that is, paragraph 33 could be applied to it by introducing economic sanctions. But the ILO limited itself to a special paragraph, believing that “all the consequences of this radical decision will fall not on the shoulders of our home-grown junta, but on the shoulders of the country’s citizens, first of all, the working people.” Do you agree with the way the issue is described?

– I remember when the European Union deprived Belarus of trade preferences, the front page of “Soviet Belarus” featured an article stating that the deprivation of preferences would hit ordinary people, so if you see Fedynich in the city – “shake his hand” for the abolition of trade preferences.

I believe that the most important thing today is citizens’ rights, even if this simple truth is not understood by the majority. Citizens’ rights must be respected by any authority. Frankly speaking, Belarus has been included in the ILO’s special paragraph many times that the country’s leadership has already developed “immunity” to the ILO’s recommendations. The authorities are simply not paying attention to the ILO recommendations: the dog barks – the procession keeps moving. Therefore, I believe that with regards to the government it is necessary to use every opportunity to normalize the situation in the country, including the application of paragraph 33. The government and the population of Belarus should know: if paragraph 33 is applied towards the government, then no ILO member country will not deal with this government, there will be a diplomatic collapse. First of all, the government will suffer irreparable losses: how can it work with itself? Let me emphasize: if the government does not want or cannot respect human rights, it must either leave, or sanctions must be applied that will restore our citizens’ rights.

The REP executive body proposes to develop a common position on supporting the strikers

Yaroshuk announced a further action plan, the essence of which is the abolition of economic sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. He opposed the withdrawal of Yara, a Norwegian company, from the Belarusian potash fertilizer market: “We will keep Yara as a loyal and consistent ally of the Belarusian workers.” Meanwhile, as far back as March, the REP trade union called for a round table to discuss the current situation and develop joint, thoughtful and solidary trade union actions in support of the strikers as well as recommendations for forming relations with foreign partners of Belarusian enterprises. Did you manage to organize this idea?

– Neither the special paragraph nor other sanctions were widely discussed by the BKDP affiliated unions. And our idea of a round table was not developed further just because the leadership of the Congress did not want to discuss it. Any conversation, any discussion is always better than making a single-handed decision – be it the leadership of the Congress or anyone else. It is impossible to hide behind the protection of the interests of the working people, just as it is impossible to be a little pregnant. It is necessary to make decisions which will, first and foremost, suit the workers, office workers, the very “ordinary people” who are tired of the lawlessness.

Today, the European Union is imposing sanctions against the potash industry, regardless of whether the Norwegian company Yara or another European business structure is present on the Belarusian market. This only suggests that the Belarusian authorities do not work on correcting their mistakes, instead, they intensify repressions: lists of those targeted for dismissal are still in effect, contracts with workers are not extended for any reason while companies try to persuade workers to leave “by the mutual agreement of the parties.” And many agree without realizing that it is how the telephone law works. A tacit ban on profession has been introduced on dissidents. There is a division among the people into the “pamyarkovny”, who are ready to tolerate any conditions, into those supporting the changes and into the ardent adepts of the authorities. This is unacceptable: everyone has the right to their own opinion, but it is a crime to force a person to think and speak out against their will. For many years, they tried and failed to cure the patient from a “serious illness” using a therapeutic approach; hence, it is necessary to resort to a surgical intervention.

Will the surgery be difficult? Undoubtedly. In life, you must pay for everything. And the sanctions will have to be tolerated, but one must not simply endure but be aware in the name of what. Citizen, if you tolerate the continued lawlessness today, these are your problems, you will tolerate more. But I am sure that most Belarusians do not want to endure and do not want to be hostages of the system that has existed in the country for 27 years.

So, the head of the BKDP voiced his personal opinion?

-The Congress has not taken any decisions on sanctions by the ILO. This is just the opinion of Yaroshuk, who refers to unnamed international structures. On such global issues, I would never have made a decision on my own without consulting trade union activists of the BKDP member trade unions. Everyone is aware of and bears full responsibility for the decision. Being good to everyone is not going to work. The Department of Labor calls the Congress and its affiliates a destructive force, and her we are, starting to look for loopholes to feel comfortable under any government. This should not be the case in democratic trade unions!