News / 29.12.17

Gennady Fedynich: "If BKDP disappears today, people won't notice it"

At the Congress of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (known as BKDP), the REP Trade Union criticized the BKDP leadership.

Gennady Fedynich

On December 2, at the BKDP Congress, some delegates from the REP Trade Union refused to vote at the election of the BKDP Chairman. The Congress nominated the current BKDP Chairman Alexander Yaroshuk on the list for secret voting.

The delegates, who spoke before that, expressed their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of BKDP's activities. Thus, Anna Dus, the leader of the REP's youth network, drew attention to the fact that out of 53 delegates to the Congress, only three represented youth networks, which indicates the inability or unwillingness to work with those who are the future of Belarus. Andrei Strizhak, the Deputy Chairman of the Gomel REP Trade Union Committee, while talking about the REP's role in the "ordinance protests", about trade union solidarity and persecutions of unionists, recalled the first reaction of the BKDP Chairman Alexander Yaroshuk to the criminal case against the REP Trade Union: "Yaroshuk's first words were those of accusation: the REP leadership were themselves guilty of what had happened. In this regard, I have no confidence in today's BKDP's leadership. However, fortunately, the BKDP is not only Alexander Yaroshuk. And the solidarity that the rank-and-file members of the trade unions-members of the BKDP expressed with us, and the statements made by the BKDP in support of the REP Trade Union later, showed that unionists' solidarity, in spite of everything, is possible."

Andrej Stryzhak

However, nobody questioned the existence of the BKDP itself: "Do we need the BKDP today? Sure we do! Belarus needs an alternative national trade union centre, like it needs air to breathe," Gennady Fedynich, the Chairman of the REP Trade Union, said addressing the delegates prior to criticizing the BKDP's actions in the Belarus' difficult situation today. His main criticism was as follows: "All the achievements of the REP Trade Union, accumulated within these six years, are of no demand by the BKDP. Not a single proposal was accepted."

Gennady Fedynich has commented to the on the situation at the BKDP Congress: "The Congress has confirmed one thing: most delegates are not ready to change the BKDP's strategy and tactics. For six years in a row, we keep telling, for example, that we need to change the geography of the BKDP's work: not only abroad, but mainly here, in Belarus; because the trade union activities abroad require much less efforts than attempts to create and defend something in Belarus. But so far, we have not been heard. Besides:

-​ There is no internal solidarity. We continue living like in a communal flat, not as a single family (we are not able to decently hold out trade union holidays – May 1 and October 7);

-​ No measures have been taken to create a unified information policy;

-​ There is no uniform approach to the development of the legal service of the trade unions-members;

-​ The uniform general strategy of the BKDP's progress has not yet been designed.

Without solving these problems, one could hardly expect that the Congress would give a new impetus to the development of the independent trade union movement. It's difficult to predict further development of events, but with the present leadership of the BKDP, any changes are unlikely. At the same time, we understand perfectly that Belarus needs a nationwide trade union centre – an alternative to the FPB (pro-governmental trade union federation). But we separate the notions of 'nationwide trade union centre' and 'the BKDP leadership' in their desire to change the very approach of the BKDP to its subjects, because without subjects there is no BKDP. Now we need to draft a strategy not just of support, but of the very survival of some subjects. Let's state frankly: if the BKDP just disappears today, which I don't really want, the civil society may simply not notice this. I would like people know more about the BKDP, that Belarusians support it, and that BKDP develops in all regions of Belarus. Only then, it'll have prospects as a defender of workers' rights."

For reference: The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) was established in 1993 as an alternative to the "pro-governmental" Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FPB). The BKDP now unites four trade unions: the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP), the Trade Union of Radio Electronic Industry (REP), the Free Metalworkers' Union (SPM) and the Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB). All of them, with the exception of BNP, are not large: BNP has 6000 members; REP – 2000 members; and the SPM and SPB together – less than a thousand members.

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