Victor Kozlov, REP Trade Union's representative for the Gomel Region, tells about his organization and its immediate problems.
"The REP unit in Gomel is considerable; and now, after the audit, I can say for sure: it unites 151 union members. However, its composition is of some concern. Now, our unit includes many of those who work in the sector of services; there are quite enough pensioners and jobless members. We have less and less of those employed in industry – now, only 10-15%. Mostly elderly people are members of our REP unit. Only 23 people are under 35 years of age."
"Of course, people join our trade union; there is an inflow, but the majority comes in order for us to protect their interests in front of employers or in courts. However, the core of our union organization is made up of the members who joined the union 10-15 years ago."
"But there is, of course, something we can be proud about; for example, by our organizational power and solidarity. When there were "parasite marches" in 2017, the first to come out were REP members. They were all in the vanguard, as on barricades, and were not afraid of fines, detentions and arrests."
"Also, our strength is the legal assistance. Our lawyer Leonid Sudalenko not only actively protects workers' interests; he is also known as a public figure and a rights defender, who also defends people's political rights."
"In our region, we have several REP organizations: apart from Gomel, we have two groups in Rechitsa, and one in Mozyr, Kalinkovichi, Svetlogorsk, Rogachev, Buda-Koshelevo and Dobrush each. But only two Rechitsa groups are registered. In Gomel, we applied for registration for three times, and three times were rejected. We are looking for a mandatory legal address and will apply again."
"Now, people, including trade union members, discuss the topic of the upcoming elections; and a possible participation of trade unionists in them. In my opinion, the main form of trade unions' participation in elections is to monitor the voting process. It is important to show whether the elections took place at all, since the voter turnout in Belarus is now practically the only thing that we can observe; and this stage is always notable for major falsifications."