Vadim Borisov, the regional representative of the IndustriALL Global Union for the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), took part in the session of the Board of the REP Trade Union. He spoke about the IndustriALL's work in defending trade union rights in Belarus and supporting REP leaders, and about future plans for cooperating with Belarusian independent trade unions.
"The struggle for our rights is a permanent job, sometimes routine; it doesn't always look spectacular, but once we took it, we'll go all the way. Since this international 'engine' – the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the IndutriALL Global Union is in action, it won't stop until it smashes all obstacles, and until we get the outcomes we want. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, but the principle is that we don't give up and always support; and you may always rely on us," Mr Borisov has emphasized.
REP activists asked questions about the situation in the trade union movement in Russia and about the trends in the world labour movement. Vadim Borisov has noted the general negative tendencies characteristic for CIS countries:
"The increase of the retirement in them is against the trends of the world labour market, and the world trade union movement. Last month, Italy, under the trade unions' pressure, reduced the retirement age by 5 years; Poland has made a similar decision was taken. Moreover, in Italy they discussed the general unconditional basic income of over 700 euros, regardless of whether a person works or not. It has to do with the onset of the Industry 4.0 epoch with robotization and the fact that more people will leave the production sphere. Young people can't find decent jobs, and retirees, should the pension age be increased, will hold on to their workplaces. This gives rise to a generation conflict. And if one has an unconditional basic income, then it's possible to look for a decent job to one's liking. In this sense, the trends that we watch in our region go to workers' detriment; they undermine the trade unions' foundations and rights – it turns out that we go against the global trend."
After the sitting of the REP's Board, Vadim Borisov answered several questions from the "Workers' Solidarity":
"How could you assess the role of the REP Trade Union in the Belarusian and international trade union movement? Our union is small, but why so much attention to it?"
"I believe, and these are not just nice words, that the REP is a sort of experimental platform: there were many initiatives and various creative ideas put forward by this union; and you implement and use all that in your work. You can talk about the union work in some gray bureaucratic words, or you may do it like REP's activists do. The union has what we call a drive; it has energy; and it's full of life. Whether it has plenty or few members is probably not the most important thing, because the REP Trade Union is to some extent the quintessence of the trade union movement."
"A trade union must bear human dignity in its heart. If this is not the case, everything else goes into the background; however, indeed the defence of human dignity is the main thing; without this, it's senseless talking about the existence of the union or not. In the REP, many activists and the leader (now, I hope, temporarily 'former') Gennady Fedynich are just embodying these features: creativity and fight for human dignity. We see a high level of trust in the trade union, because the union continues its work and its struggle, without bending and twisting. I'm sure that larger unions have something to learn from the REP."
"In Belarus, practically any activity that fails to match what the authorities prescribe is regarded as political activity. How do you view such unwitting politicization of union's activities?"
"Last year, in Saint Petersburg, a court made a decision to liquidate the 'Workers' Association' interregional trade union. Among other things, it was accused of being involved in politics. The politics, it was engaged in, was the collection of signatures to the letter on amending Article 134 of the Labour Code on wage indexing. If this is politics, then, all that we do is politics too. Here, in general, we should ask trade unions: for how long will you shy away from what is called politics? For example, our proposals to amend the state budget and allocate more funds for social needs – this is an attempt to influence politics. Of course, trade unions do not seek to seize power, but all other issues are issues of the internal policy of the state."
"What else can we expect from the international trade union movement in the Belarusian 'trade union' case?"
"We'll struggle for the abolition of the verdict and hold international actions on this issue, including, in the very near future, the so-called 'country meeting' to take place in Brussels – this is a meeting of trade unions dedicated to a specific country, in this case this country is Belarus," Mr Borisov has concluded.