After the end of the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference held in Geneva in late May-early June, 2018, the Provisional Record was published of the sittings of the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS).
Under Item Three of its Agenda the CAS discussed cases of serious failure by member States to respect their reporting or other standards-related obligations, including submission to the competent authorities of the instruments adopted by the International Labour Conference.
In its Part Two, Section 9A, of the Record, 10 pages cover the discussion on Belarus. See below the full text of the statement made by the representative of the IndustriALL Global Union (the video is here), and the Conclusions made by the CAS on the outcomes of the discussion.
IndustriALL Global Union's Statement on Belarus, CAS 2018
I am speaking here on behalf of IndustriALL Global Union.
We are deeply concerned by the developments taking place in Belarus. Since the beginning of the last year, we notice further deterioration of trade union rights in the country directly linked to content of the discussion taking place at this committee.
The leading factor was the Presidential Decree No. 3 "On Prevention of Social Dependency", the decree penalized people unemployed with a tax of US $240, which is a very important amount of money.
Following mass protests with our affiliates involved, the authorities announced a revised version of the said Decree.
The new decree "On promotion of employment of population" keeps the same logic of punishing the unemployed who will have to pay full costs of public services subsidized by the state.
In addition, the new decree has a mechanism of collection of private information on workers and its further sharing at all levels of state structure, which will likely lead to a higher degree of violations of workers' rights in the absence of proper protection of privacy.
In combination with bad economic situation in the country and existing system of fixed-term contracts, workers already face serious problems to freely express themselves on labour-related issues because of the fear of non-renewal of their contracts.
In addition, comparing to much wider powers given to employers to fire workers, existing employment contracts make it difficult for workers to quit their job before the end of contract.
In parallel to this, since August this year, there is an obvious effort to eliminate the independent trade unions through criminalization of their work. This is done in order to prevent them from opposing the new decree.
Chairman of our affiliate Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union Gennady Fedynich and his colleague Igor Komlik are subject to legal prosecution facing up to 7 years of imprisonment for alleged tax evasion.
Although the case has been officially announced as only related to economic reasons, 800 of the union members were summoned and questioned as part of the investigation.
In light of the union's active participation in the protests against Decree No. 3, IndustriALL believes that these criminal cases are clear retaliation for the previous union engagement in the protests.
We believe this case is fabricated in a way to ignore ILO recommendations regarding removing obstacles for receipt of foreign gratuitous aid. We believe that the ILO commission of inquiry could probably restart its work to check the present status of the situation in Belarus.
We do expect and demand that the Government of Belarus respect fundamental trade union rights in the country.
The Committee took note of the oral statements made by the Government representative and the discussion that followed.
Further to the Committee's 2016 conclusions and the Government's actions as a result, the Committee noted the Government's explanation of the conceptual changes to the framework of Presidential Decree No. 3 of 2 April 2015 as amended by Decree No. 1 of 25 January 2018 and the repeal of Decree No. 9 of 7 December 2012 by Presidential Decree No. 182 of 27 May 2016.
However, the Committee noted with concern the possible exaction of forced labour as a result of the operation of the other Presidential Decrees, which have not been amended.
Taking into account the Government's submissions and the discussion that followed, the Committee recommended the Government to:
Continue to take all measures to suppress the use of forced labour and refrain from enacting legislation that may amount to the use of forced labour in full compliance with Convention No. 29;
Provide to the Committee of Experts information related to the operation of the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 182 in law and its effect in practice;
Provide to the Committee of Experts information confirming the amendment of Presidential Decree No. 3 by Presidential Decree No. 1, including information related to the operation of this new framework in law and practice;
Continue to provide information on the implementation of Law No. 104-3 in practice including the number of persons who are placed in medical centres and the compulsory work that forms part of this rehabilitation; and
Continue to accept technical assistance to ensure continued measures to achieve compliance with Convention No. 29 in law and practice.
The Committee encouraged the Government to continue to constructively engage with the ILO to work to suppress the use of forced labour and to report on these measures at the next meeting of the Committee of Experts.
The Government representative indicated that her Government was committed to comply with international labour standards and would send additional information to the Committee of Experts to facilitate a better understanding of measures taken to implement the Convention. She underlined that the purpose of the measures taken by her Government was to combat certain undesirable phenomena such as alcoholism and drug addiction through assistance, rehabilitation and support services to protect children.