News / 12.03.19

European Parliament and Commission, European Games' organizers, governments: how fight is on for REP Trade Union in international arena

Kemal Özkan, Deputy Secretary General of the IndustriALL Global Union, spoke at the Plenum of the REP Board in direct Skype communication from Geneva. He told what the Global Union is doing so that the "REP Case" does not disappear from the global agenda.

We present below Mr Özkan's speech:

"Good afternoon, brothers and sisters, hello from Geneva. Thank you for allowing me to speak at your Plenum, it is a great honour for me.

We continue monitoring the processes underway in Belarus; and the IndustriALL Global Union has always been and will be shoulder to shoulder with you in your struggle for the fundamental rights of workers and the union. This is our common struggle: you are fighting in your country, we are doing the same in the international arena, so that justice in Belarus and elsewhere will win.

It is completely unacceptable for us that both Gennady and Igor, being restricted in their rights, were in some sense withdrawn from the trade union movement. Although they are not in jail, we perceive them as political prisoners, like the people who suffered for their convictions.

On January 16, I stated all this when we met Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It was when leaders of the four largest trade union associations met high-ranking EU representatives specifically on the issue of the verdict passed to Gennady Fedynich and Igor Komlik. We declared that it is unacceptable for the EU to continue relations with the country, where the fundamental trade union rights are systematically and cynically violated. We were told that the EU has very weak mechanisms to seriously influence the leadership of Belarus. But we insisted that if an EU-Belarus partnership agreement was signed, it should contain a section that reflects the inviolability of trade union rights and fundamental rights of workers.

Currently, we, as an international trade union movement, continue communicating with the EU, sending proposals on what specific provisions should be included into such agreement. We keep reminding the EU leaders that in any contacts with Belarusian leadership, your particular case should be raised before them. They also informed us that both the EU delegation and most ambassadors of the EU member states to Belarus are regularly contacting Gennady Fedynich and have already expressed their support in this case.

Apart from the EU and the European Commission, we also contacted the European Parliament, in particular, the MEPs from those countries, which have closest relations with Belarus. We have already met the Director General of the ILO and discussed the situation in Belarus, and we are going to meet his adviser Kari Tapiola in the near future, so that the ILO will also give a clear enough message on both the fundamental rights of workers and trade unions in Belarus and the court judgement regarding Gennady and Igor.

We are also in constant contact our member union organization in Sweden, Germany, Denmark and other countries, for them to inform their governments about the rights situation in Belarus, and they tell us that they work with governments.

We have appealed and will appeal to the organizers of the European Games, so that they, for their part, also raise these issues with the government of Belarus. Apart of sending letters to the organizing committee, we urged our member organizations to raise the issue of their countries' participation in these games through their national federations. We have also established contact with lawyers from the UN Human Rights Committee, and this is a serious organization.

I have described the steps we are taking in the international arena to campaign for our friends, our trade union colleagues. At the Congress in Rio de Janeiro, our main slogan was 'The struggle continues!' – this is our confirmation of the fact that we continue fighting together."

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