No guarantee of rights

Same as last year


Belarus is one of the 10 worst countries for working people

  • Repression of strikes and assemblies

  • Arbitrary arrests

  • Obstacles to union registration

Since Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the rigged presidential elections in early August 2020, repression of the independent trade union movement in Belarus has continued unabated as all meetings, pickets and demonstrations organised by trade unions were banned by the government.

Several union offices were raided, and the police have been forcing unions to hand over personal information about their members, causing serious concern about action against people who have exercised their right to join a union. Union representatives were abducted on their way to work by security services and subjected to interrogation and arbitrary detention. Workers were sentenced to long prison sentences for supporting strike action and protests.

In addition, the authorities continued to deny the registration of independent unions.

Workers' rights violations

Right to trade union activities

In January 2021, the authorities in Minsk, without providing any explanation, refused to register BITU-affiliated students’ and teachers’ unions at the Belarusian State University.

Right to free speech and assembly

In 2020, the Belarusian government imposed a ban on holding meetings, pickets, processions and demonstrations organised by trade unions. The situation was further complicated by Council of Ministers Ruling No. 196 of 3 April 2020, pursuant to which the organiser of a mass event, prior to submitting an application to the local executive and administrative body, must meet a long list of exorbitant requirements, including ensuring the maintenance of public order during the rally, the provision of medical services and cleaning services, all expenses being borne by the organiser. The law further provides for the possibility of liquidating a trade union for even a single violation of its requirements. These regulations amount to a de facto ban on all public assemblies and strikes for unions.

Right to civil liberties

Two members of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU), Vladimir Berdnikovich and Andrey Prilutsky, were accused of violence against the police. Vladimir Berdnikovich was sentenced to four years after managing to escape the police round-up as the armed forces brutally dispersed protesters. While helping an elderly man who was being beaten up during the protest, Andrey Prilutsky was severely hit, arrested and sentenced to fifteen days in prison.

Right to civil liberties

In Belarus, union activists and workers received harsh court sentences for their participation in the peaceful protests following the result of presidential elections in August 2020.

On 20 January 2021, the Belarus Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the Belaruskali strike committee and judged last year’s strike illegal. Daria Polyakova, youth network coordinator of the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REP), was sentenced to two years of house arrest for “violence or threat of violence against an employee of the internal affairs agency”.

Right to trade union activities

For years in Belarus, the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) and its company-level organisations have been denied registration on dubious grounds. On 13 October 2021, the authorities in Polotsk illegally refused to recognise the newly formed union at fiberglass manufacturer Polotsk-Steklovolokno. Under the Belarusian law, such refusal leads to the automatic dissolution of the trade union.

Right to trade union activities

On 24 November 2020, the authorities in Moskovsky (a district of Minsk) decided to deny registration to newly created BITU unions in two IT companies, EPAM Systems and JSC Peleng, under the pretext of the absence of common professional interests between the employees of these companies and the activities of the BITU.

Right to justice

On 27 October 2020, Alexander Zhuk, BITU union representative at OJSC Grodno Azot, was abducted on his way to work. By noon it became clear that he had been taken to the prosecutor's office, where he was interrogated by the police and secret services. That evening, Zhuk was officially arrested and taken to the pre-trial detention centre in Oktyabrsky District, where he served a 30-day prison sentence for some unclear alleged administrative offenses.

Right to justice

On 16 February 2020, the office of the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REP) was raided by police forces. All communication devices and laptops were seized, along with almost all basic documentation, including accounting documents, various printed and campaign materials, and personal money. Officials refused to give a copy of the search record or supply an inventory of the seized items. The same morning, police searched the homes of Vladimir Maley, REP lawyer for the Brest region, and Andrei Komlik-Yamatin, REP union chairman at the Minsk Motor Plant. He was detained for refusing to open the door and sentenced to 25 days of administrative arrest “for disobedience to an order or request of an official on duty”.

Right to collective bargaining

The management of Naftan, an oil refinery in Belarus, illegally suspended for a six-month period the clause of the collective agreement providing that workers and trade union representatives cannot be dismissed on the initiative of the employer without the prior consent of the trade union. Soon after, union members were summarily dismissed. The Naftan deputy director said that "the measure was aimed at strengthening labour discipline".

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in strikes and demonstrations in Belarus since Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in rigged presidential elections in early August 2020. Thousands have been arrested and detained and more than 150 remained behind bars. Furthermore, punitive legal consequences for striking workers have continued across the country. In Zhlobin, a local court sentenced the workers Igor Povarov, Alexander Bobrov and Yevgeny Govor of the Belarusian metallurgical plant (BMZ) to three and two and a half years of imprisonment respectively for an attempt to organise a strike at this plant on 17 August 2020.

Belarus is a new entry in the ten worst countries for working people as rigged elections were followed by repression of protests, attacks on unions and arbitrary arrests.Stringer / AFP

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