Europe

2.49

Repeated violations of rights

Better than last year

In Europe, the average regional rating was 2.49, falling between (2) Repeated violations and (3) Regular violations. Collective bargaining rights were severely trampled in most countries while in Eastern European countries, independent trade union movements were still heavily suppressed. The number of countries where workers experienced violent attacks showed a marked increased from 12 per cent to 26 per cent of countries. As restrictions put in place to control the COVID-19 pandemic were eased, restrictions on free speech and assembly decreased from 22 per cent of countries in 2021 to 15 per cent in 2022. Due to the ongoing conflict, Russia and Ukraine were not included in the 2022 Global Rights Index.

At a glance

72%

72% of countries violated the right to strike.

Compared with 73% in 2021
54%

54% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

No change from 2021
41%

41% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

No change from 2021
38%

38% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

Compared with 37% in 2021
33%

33% of countries arrested and detained workers.

Compared with 29% in 2021
32%

32% of countries in Europe denied workers access to justice.

Compared with 34% in 2021
26%

Workers experienced violent attacks in 26% of countries in Europe.

Compared with 12% in 2021
15%

15% of countries in Europe restricted free speech and assembly.

Compared with 22% in 2021

Workers' rights violations

Right to strikeProsecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

72%

72% of countries violated the right to strike.

Compared with 73% in 2021

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In Belgium, article 406 of the penal code allows for prosecution and sentencing for “malicious obstruction of traffic” in the context of a strike movement. This provision, which has already been applied twice in the last two years to condemn seventeen FGTB members to suspended prison sentences and heavy fines, severely hampers possibilities to organise strikes in the country.

While an appeal has been lodged by Belgian trade unions to reverse the sentences, in 2022 another trade unionist was prosecuted under the same provision for a picket line organised in 2016 at the Lantin prison facility. A criminal complaint was filed by the municipality against CGSP members for littering, alleging damages to the tarmac where a brazier was lit. While the public prosecutor requested a dismissal of the case, it was still pending at the time of writing.

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

On 8 June 2021, the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, signed new legislation that punishes those accused of participating in unauthorised demonstrations with imprisonment of up to three years. Those who are found to have participated in or promoted "extremist activity" face up to six years in jail. The definition of “extremist activity” is not clearly defined in the new legislation, and there is fear that the new provisions will be used to suppress any dissent. This new law follows laws enacted on 24 May 2021 making it compulsory to obtain a permit from the authorities to organise mass events.

Right to strikeDismissals for participating in strike action

72%

72% of countries violated the right to strike.

Compared with 73% in 2021

Dismissals for participating in strike action

Fiat Plastik in Serbia attempted to break a strike by its workers in the Serbian city of Kragujevac by placing the strike committee on paid leave in May 2021 and transferring some of the production away from the Kragujevac facility. Thirteen workers who took part in the stoppages, including the entire strike committee, were illegally placed on leave, and the committee locked out of the plant. Management also removed machinery from the plant.

Protests had begun in January 2021 with one-hour-per-day stoppages further to the announcement of a €300 annual pay cut.

In June 2021, management were charged with misdemeanours by the labour inspectorate over attempts to break the strike.

In August, the United Trade Unions of Serbia denounced intimidation by the Security and Information Agency of Serbia (BIA). BIA called the president of the strike committee on 11 August to invite him to a “conversation”. The Fiat Plastik union refused, announcing that it was “not interested in politics”, only with trade union matters.

The dispute continued. Negotiations with Fiat, mediated by the state Agency for the Peaceful Settlement of Labor Disputes, failed in October. At the time of writing, the dispute had not yet been resolved.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

When workers at the Upfield food company in Portugal announced a series of two-hour strikes, the company responded with a collective dismissal. The strike was called when Upfield ignored the workers’ demands for a €30 increase in their monthly pay. The strikes began on 5 July 2021.

In the days following the publication of the strike notice, the company announced its intention to make 19 workers redundant, including a member of the workers' committee and the three workplace health and safety representatives.

The workers held a meeting and scheduled an action in defence of their rights for the 15 July. On 19 July they scheduled a 24-hour strike to protest against the collective dismissal and press for pay rises and the upgrading of careers.

Upfield's relations with workers' representatives had steadily deteriorated since the company was taken over from Unilever-Jerónimo Martins Lda. by a North American financial group (KKR) three years earlier.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In Georgia, cleaning and waste management company Tbilservice Group fired Irakli Baghdavadze for organising a strike on 6 August 2021. Fellow workers joined him to demand a pay rise, new uniforms and free health insurance. The strike ended on 9 August after Tbilisi City Hall promised a pay rise from 2022, but Irakli lost his job over the protest.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

On 22 May 2021, Kurum International in Albania dismissed 20 mechanics and electricians at the Ulëz and Shkopet hydroelectric plants in violation of their collective agreement signed in 2019 with the Trade Union Federation of Industrial Workers of Albania (FSPISH).

The workers staged daily protests and pickets, and trade union activists travelled from across Albania to join them. The company responded by harassing the union committee and suspending those who took part in strike action.

The hydroelectric plants are among four acquired by Turkish-based Kurum Holdings from the Albanian government in a privatisation deal in 2013. Since buying the power plants, Kurum has reduced the workforce by 120, leaving only 43 workers. The power plants are the only major source of employment in the region.

Right to collective bargaining

54%

54% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

No change from 2021

Right to collective bargaining

On 18 March 2022, P&O Ferries, owned by DP World, summarily sacked 800 staff with plans to replace them with cheaper agency workers paid below the minimum wage. This decision came as a shock, as there were no prior consultations with the unions and no prior notice to the workers. News of the mass dismissals was given by the management via a Zoom communication, leaving astounded crews to be forcibly removed from ships by hired security guards.

Unions and politicians alike denounced this scandal, and rallies and solidarity campaigns have been organised all over the United Kingdom and in many other countries.

Right to collective bargaining

In 2021, the Union of Construction and Services of Comisiones Obreras of Cádiz in Spain denounced the repeated breaches of the collective agreement committed by the company ITELYMP, the company in charge of cleaning the facilities of the University of Cádiz. The last breach concerned provisions on leave which the company had unilaterally reduced by two days. Despite the union’s request, the company did not modify its position.

Additionally, ITELYMP elaborated an equality plan without consulting the union representatives.

Right to collective bargaining

Commerce unions and workers in Poland took to the streets on 4 November 2021 to demand better trade union representation, decent pay, work-free Sundays and measures to address chronic understaffing and high workloads. Retail workers in Poland make up 14 per cent of the workforce, yet only three per cent are covered by a collective agreement. Low levels of collective bargaining in the commerce sector have led to poor wages and conditions, including inadequate occupational health and safety measures.

Affiliates of Poland’s national trade union centre, NSZZ Solidarnosc, reported serious violations of trade union rights in many retail companies, including dismissal of trade union leaders and members, discrimination against trade union representatives and members, marginalisation of the role of trade unions, disregard for trade union rights, limited and obstructed access to workers and a lack of genuine dialogue and consultation.

Much of the retail sector in the country is dominated by multinationals, but there is not a single collective agreement with the multinationals. The major retailers operating in Poland include Amazon, Auchan, Carrefour, Castorama, H&M, Jysk, Lidl and Metro.

Right to collective bargaining

In the Netherlands, employers frequently negotiated with yellow unions or the companies’ works council to adopt pay cuts. There is no legislation in the country ensuring that only independent trade unions are allowed to conclude collective agreements or that trade unions take precedence over works councils. As a result, where unions decide on a collective action in the context of a negotiation, employers can undermine unions’ position by simply concluding an agreement with yellow unions or works councils.

Right to collective bargaining

In the Netherlands, FNV has been trying for over fifteen years to reach a collective agreement in the meat processing industry, especially on access of union officials to the workplace. For decades, trade union officials who have attempted to hand out flyers on parking lots were met with intimidation and attacks by employers who even declared that they would only allow access of their premises to trade union officials when they are legally forced to do so. The meat sector has a high percentage of migrant workers who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and precarity.

Right to collective bargaining

On 8 February 2022, a strike in Lithuanian enterprise AB "Achema" was organised to protest the employer’s continued refusal to engage in collective bargaining. For several years the union had been trying to engage in a constructive dialogue with the company’s management and had taken all possible measures to reach a settlement. Unfortunately, the employer never engaged in social dialogue. Additional tensions emerged when the employer unilaterally adopted a new remuneration system.

Achema is a producer of nitrogen fertilizers and chemical products in Lithuania and the Baltic states. Currently, there is no collective bargaining within the company, and the state labour inspectorate is investigating possible violations of the workers’ rest and working-time arrangements.

Right to collective bargaining

Management at the biopharmaceutical company AbbVie in Carrigtwohill, Ireland, consistently refused to engage with representatives of the workers’ union, the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), for collective bargaining purposes.

This refusal persisted despite two recommendations by the Labour Court in 2017 and 2020 to engage with SIPTU representatives on behalf of their members “in relation to all matters associated with terms and conditions of employment including pay”.

SIPTU representatives wrote to management on a number of occasions in relation to its failure to fully implement the two Labour Court recommendations and engage in collective bargaining with the union. Management still refused to respond to or engage with their union either directly or indirectly.

Finally, at the beginning of August 2021, SIPTU members at the AbbVie plant commenced industrial action in the form of an overtime ban in the manufacturing process. Two weeks later no progress had been made, and the union announced they were considering escalating their action.

Right to collective bargaining

In Greece, violation of collective agreements were common, especially in the banking sector. Companies often refused to apply existing collective labour agreements. This behaviour was further compounded by the adoption of Law 4808/2021 of 19 June 2021, which provides that in case of challenge of a collective agreement before the courts, the collective agreement is suspended until a final court decision is issued. The law bears the risk of suspending the implementation of collective agreements for long periods of time, pending review by the judiciary, and thus depriving workers of the benefit of the negotiated provisions.

Right to collective bargaining

On 8 February 2021, the Finnish forest industry company United Paper Mills (UPM) suddenly announced it would no longer negotiate terms of employment. Instead, conditions would be determined without any collective agreement, meaning in practice that they would be unilaterally dictated by the employer.

This decision was preceded in October 2020 by an announcement by the forest industry employers' association, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, that it would no longer participate in collective bargaining. National level collective agreements would end, and all collective agreements would be done at company level.

Appeals from the trade unions representing the workers, the Finnish Paper Workers’ Union Paperiliitto, the Finnish Industrial Union Teollisuusliitto, and Trade Union Pro, to negotiate a company level agreement with them were refused.

On 31 August 2021, UPM announced it would define the terms of work on the basis of “labour law, UPM practices and personal employment contracts”. According to a calculation UPM presented to their employees, pay would drop by one third from January 2022 onwards. Many benefits agreed in the collective agreement would also disappear.

Right to collective bargaining

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a restructuring plan for seven coal mines owned by the state-owned Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH) power company, employing about 7,000 workers, was agreed between EPBiH and the unions in May 2021.

On 22 November 2021, however, the EPBiH imposed new working regulations that violated the collective bargaining agreement, slashing the miners' basic wage to 570 Bosnian marka (US$328) from 850 marka (US$489).

Thousands of miners halted work on 23 November and protested outside the seat of government in Sarajevo. They called for the minimum wage to be set at 1,000 Bosnian marka (US$575) while also demanding the payment of pension insurance, the resignation of the mines’ CEOs and the resignation of the head of EPBiH. Protests continued for a week until the government stepped in to mediate.

Right to collective bargaining

In June 2021, the president of the Union of State, Local Governments and Public Service Employees of Armenia addressed a letter to the mayor of Yerevan, offering to start negotiations on a sectoral collective agreement for the city employees, as provided by the labour code. However, this proposal was bluntly rejected by the city administration. Earlier in the year, the leader of the Yerevan City Hall workers’ union was unlawfully dismissed.

Right to establish and join a trade unionWorkers excluded from labour protections

41%

41% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

No change from 2021

Workers excluded from labour protections

Under Turkish law, senior public employees, magistrates and prison guards were excluded from the right to organise.

Right to establish and join a trade unionUnion-busting

41%

41% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union.

No change from 2021

Union-busting

In June 2021, fifty-four workers of the ASD Laminat Factory in Düzce, Turkey, were dismissed as a result of their membership in the Turkish Wood and Paper Industry Workers’ Union (AGAC-IS). The company refused to recognise the union and resorted to union-busting schemes, such as arbitrarily dismissing unionists and pressuring other workers to renounce their union membership. After a four-year legal battle, a local court ruled in favour of the workers’ reinstatement earlier this year. However, the company continued to defy the court’s decision and intensified its anti-union practices. On 30 June, it started dismissing workers immediately after the pandemic “lay-off ban” was lifted. As of 14 July 2021, another 19 workers had been fired.

Union-busting

When workers at smartphone producer Salcomp in Istanbul, Turkey, exercised their fundamental right to join a trade union, they faced intimidation, threats and dismissals. Working conditions at the plant were untenable. During the pandemic, overtime was imposed without the workers’ consent and only partly paid. Breaks could only be taken at the managers’ discretion, and since there was no canteen, workers had to eat in containers for a while. Many workers became ill with COVID-19.

When the workers decided to join the Turkish Metalworkers’ Union (Türk Metal), in August 2021, management launched a union busting campaign. Workers were intimidated, threatened and 170 union members were dismissed. Around 80 per cent of the dismissed workers were women. After six days of protest, workers managed to get Salcomp to reverse its decision and reinstate all dismissed union members.

Salcomp produces smart phones for the Chinese multinational Xiaomi, the second largest smartphone maker in the world. There are around 800 workers at the site in Istanbul, and there are plans to increase the workforce to 2,000.

Union-busting

In November 2021, EasyJet gravely interfered in the union elections at its Barcelona (Spain) centre by dismissing the CC.OO. representative. This anti-union dismissal had no other motive but to thwart union growth in the company.

Union-busting

In the private sector in Greece, employers dismissed, transferred and downgraded unionised workers or used the threat of such measures against workers to discourage them from joining a union.

Union-busting

United Paper Mills (UPM) sacked the shop steward at its Kaukas sawmill (Finland) in April 2021. The company claimed it was a legal dismissal connected with closing one production line at the sawmill and with a “renewal of the management model”. Unions, on the other hand, saw the move as part of an attempt to undermine the trade unions, coming not long after the announcement that UPM was going to scrap the collective bargaining system.

Union-busting

In June 2021, two Turkish companies, Cengiz İnşaat and CI-AY Mühendislik, were hired to reconstruct a railway section in Croatia. From the beginning of the project, SGH, an affiliate of the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH) in the construction sector, contacted the management of the two companies to discuss the need to apply the sectoral collective agreement for all the workers working on the reconstruction project, including Turkish workers brought in for the project. The two companies obstinately refused any attempt by SGH to disseminate information to workers.

On 17 February 2022, SGH visited the workers on the construction site during their break and handed them leaflets on the rights under the collective agreement. Workers reported a series of violations of their rights, including working 250-300 hours a month and not being paid overtime. Immediately thereafter, seventeen workers received a text message informing them that they had been fired.

Union-busting

In Bulgaria, workers faced many obstacles to joining trade unions as employers terminated unionised workers, harassed trade union leaders, established yellow unions and refused to collect union dues, despite check-off agreements.

Union-busting

Following the restructuration in April 2021 of the social security administration in Armenia, which merged municipal services and three state administrations into one, all of which had their own union, the management of the newly created Unified Social Service (USS) decided to cease the application of the check-off agreements and the collection of union dues. This unilateral decision had a disastrous impact on the unions’ finances and their capacity to operate. Despite insistent requests from the presidents of the unions, the issue remained unresolved.

Right to trade union activities

38%

38% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

Compared with 37% in 2021

Right to trade union activities

Kazakh authorities have long been impeding the operation of independent trade unions in the country by simply de-registering and refusing to reregister unions. In January 2021, the authorities de-registered the branch of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union (SFEWU) in the Kyzylordy region, founding the decision on an alleged de-registration request made by an ex-chairman.

This unlawful de-registration decision had repercussions for the SFEWU itself, as according to the law, a sectoral trade union must have at least nine registered branch unions. In February 2021, the Specialised Inter-District Economic Court of Shymkent suspended the SFEWU’s activities for six months. The decision was upheld by the appellate court and entered into force on 29 April 2021. All activities of the SFEWU had to stop immediately because of the threat of criminal prosecution of the leaders under Article 430 of the Criminal Code.

Right to trade union activities

In North Macedonia, discrimination against the Konfederacija Slobodnik Sindikata (KSS) by state officials and public institutions continued as KSS's request for representativeness, submitted in July 2019, was still pending before the authorities without any official motive. De facto, KSS’s request was rejected, and therefore the union was denied full involvement in national social dialogue, prevented from participating in the process of economic and social policy building, and denied the possibility of representing the interests and promoting the rights of its members.

Right to trade union activities

On 22 July 2021, the Belarusian Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to liquidate the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). BAJ has been accused by the government of violating the legislation on national workers’ associations. The application for dissolution of the BAJ was approved by the Supreme Court on 27 August 2021. BAJ was the only independent representative organisation of journalists and media workers in Belarus and one of the country’s most prominent champions of freedom of expression.

Right to civil liberties

33%

33% of countries arrested and detained workers.

Compared with 29% in 2021

Right to civil liberties

In the afternoon of 24 February 2022, unknown persons in civilian clothes broke into the In the afternoon of 24 February 2022, unknown persons in civilian clothes broke into the office of the Free Metalworkers’ Union (SPM) without presenting documents, searched the office, and seized office equipment and mobile phones from the office management and employees. The SPM deputy chairman, Aleksandr Evdokimchik, was arrested and taken away to an undisclosed location. Earlier in the morning, the executive committee of BKDP, the national trade union centre and ITUC affiliate, could not get in touch with Igor Komlik, the lawyer of the trade union who, it was later revealed, was also arrested by law enforcement agencies.

Right to civil liberties

On the morning of 21 September 2021, law enforcement agencies searched the apartment of Volha Brytsikava, local leader of the primary trade union organisation of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) at JSC Naftan. Her computer was seized and she was arrested and detained. Two more BITU members, Andrey Berezovsky and Roman Shkodin, were arrested and detained for seven and 15 days, respectively.

At Grodno Azot, the vice chairperson of the BITU local union, Valiantsin Tseranevich, and BITU members Andrei Paheryla, Vladimir Zhurauka, Grigory Ruban, Dmitry Ilyushenko and Aleksey Sidor were detained by the police.

In Zhlobin, Aliaksandr Hashnikau, secretary treasurer of the BITU primary branch at the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant BMZ, was arrested on 17 September 2021 and arbitrarily detained. According to his wife, he disappeared in mid-September and was located a week later.

BITU president Maksim Pazniakou was detained on 17 September but later released and fined US$350 for a social media post from 2020, featuring a Belarusian music group, later labelled by authorities as extremist.

Right to civil liberties

On the morning of 23 August 2021, a leader of the Algarve Hotel Industry Union, accompanied by two union delegates, was arrested while distributing union information to the workers of the Hapimag Resort Albufeira, Portugal. Hotel management called in the National Republican Guard (GNR) to prevent the union leader from carrying out his trade union activities inside the establishment, a right foreseen in the constitution of the Portuguese republic, in the labour code and in the collective agreement for the tourism sector.

The union leader tried to explain to the GNR officers that they were exercising a constitutional right, but the GNR officers complied with the employer's request and detained the union leader, taking him to the Albufeira police station. The leader was charged and summoned to appear before the Albufeira Court.

The Algarve Hotel Industry Union and the Algarve Hotel Workers’ Union both publicly supported the worker concerned. His union, Sindicato dos Trabalhadores da Indústria de Hotelaria, Turismo, Restaurantes e Similares do Algarve (Hotel, Tourism, Restaurant and Allied Workers of the Algarve), recalled that the management of Hapimag Resort Albufeira had recently suspended the union delegates from their duties as head and deputy head of kitchen for demanding the improvement of working conditions.

The workers’ main grievances included poor working conditions and the violation of health and safety standards, issues that they had been trying to solve through negotiation for two years.

Right to civil liberties

On 28 January 2022, the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan (FTUKg) planned to hold the Federation Council, which was supposed to set the date for the Unification Congress. In the morning of the 28th, at 7:50 a.m., Ryskul Babayeva, FTUKg deputy chairperson, was arbitrarily detained by police officers of the Alamedin district on a false denunciation. After investigation by the police, it was revealed that the denunciation was slanderous. Babayeva was released and was able to attend the council.

Right to civil liberties

In April 2021, union representatives at the Tirana International Airport (Albania) attempted to open negotiations with management on health risks in relation to the physical and mental exhaustion of workers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of engaging in dialogue with the unions, the management unilaterally cut the workers’ salaries and resorted to harassment and intimidation against union members and workers. Faced with increased pressure, the workers declared themselves medically unfit for duty in accordance with international standards in the civil aviation sector. In response, the government deployed law enforcement forces, removing workers from the premises and detaining union leaders for several days in police custody or under house arrest, threatening to take legal action against union leaders and engaging replacement workers from other countries.

Right to justice

32%

32% of countries in Europe denied workers access to justice.

Compared with 34% in 2021

Right to justice

16 December 2021 marked the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, where police opened fire on protestors, killing 17 and injuring more than 100 workers. The violence put a stop to a seven-month-long strike, involving more than 3,000 workers demanding a wage increase. This case was subject to extensive review by international bodies, which all expressed concern about the lack of independent, impartial and effective investigation into the human rights violations committed in connection with the protests in Zhanaozen. They called on the government to immediately carry out such an investigation. However, to this date the government of Kazakhstan has not responded to the recommendations, and no prosecution or conviction has been made in the ten years since the events.

Right to justice

Four years after the events, there is no progress in investigation of the violent attack on Dimitri Sinyavsky, the Chairman of the Karaganda Regional Branch of the Sectorial Union of Fuel and Energy Workers, which took place on 10 November 2018. Absence of effective investigations and judgements against parties guilty of violent attacks on trade unionists reinforce the climate of insecurity for victims and impunity for perpetrators which are extremely damaging to the exercise of freedom of association rights in Kazakhstan.

Right to justice

In Kazakhstan, the restrictions imposed by the court sentence on the freedom of Larisa Nilolayvna Kharkova, former leader of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CNTUK), expired on 9 November 2021. However, she was still banned from holding leadership positions in non-governmental and other non-commercial organisations. The term of this sanction imposed by the court on 25 July 2017 expires on 5 October 2022. Kharkova was unable to open a settlement account in any of the Kazakhstan banks, and her personal bank account is still blocked under the conditions imposed in the course of the examination of the criminal case against her.

In a similar way, the former activist of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union, Amin Eleusinov, who was convicted in 2017 and in May 2018 released early from serving an imprisonment sentence, was still banned from holding leadership positions in non-governmental organisations until 2022.

The former leader of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union, Nurbek Kushakbayev, who was convicted in 2017 for calling on others to join the alleged illegal strike, has completed his prison sentence. However, he was unable to resume his trade union work.

Right to justice

On 15 June 2021, officers of the Minsk City Department of Interior made a search of the private house of the SPB vice president, Gennadiy Bykov. On 14 July 2021, officers of the Polotsk District Department of Interior searched the apartment of the president of the Free Trade Union of Belarus, Nikolai Sharakh. On 21 July 2021, the authorities searched the house of the chair of the SPB Internal Auditing Committee, Victor Stukov.

Right to justice

On 26 June 2021, officers of the State Security Committee searched the regional office of the Belorussian Radio Electronics Workers’ Union (REPU) in Brest. On 16 July 2021, law enforcement officers appeared at REPU’s headquarters in Minsk and broke down the door and sealed the other. Later on, the law enforcement officers claimed that they were investigating another organisation and that the search had nothing to do with the activities of the REPU. This was the second time in six months that the Minsk headquarters of REPU were raided. On 16 February 2021, State Security had already searched the premises and seized communications and other equipment and documents. The homes of several REPU activists were searched at the same time. Law enforcement officers claimed the searches were a part of the investigation into the funding of the union.

Right to justice

On 8 July 2021, four prominent members of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union at JSC Naftan in Navapolatsk had their homes searched and two were detained. The leaders whose homes were searched were trade union lawyer Aliaksandr Kapshul, deputy chairperson of the primary organisation Jury Hashau; deputy chairperson Dzianis Hurski; and secretary-treasurer Dzmitry Koyra. Hursky and Koyra were detained for 72 hours and then released. The authorities alleged that the searches and detentions were in relation to a criminal case about the damage of the paintwork on Siarhei Brykun's car, which occurred in October 2020.

Violent attacks on workers

26%

Workers experienced violent attacks in 26% of countries in Europe.

Compared with 12% in 2021

Violent attacks on workers

In the early days of January 2022, workers at Farplas automotive factory in Kocaeli province, Turkey, demanded a wage increase. Finding insufficient the pay rise offer made on 19 January, the workers halted work at the factory in protest, and the employer started negotiating with the United Metalworkers' Union, promising that no workers would be dismissed in this process. While production resumed the next day, the employer summarily dismissed nearly 150 workers, both members and non-members of the union, referring to their one-day strike as justification for their dismissal. In protest, the dismissed workers of Farplas decided to strike inside the factory. Police stormed the Farplas factory, dispersing the workers with pepper gas. Two people fainted during the intervention. One worker had his leg broken.

Violent attacks on workers

CGT activists were violently attacked in Paris and in Lyon, France, during a rally May Day 2021. Individuals damaged vehicles, made racist and homophobic insults, made remarks castigating the CGT's "communism", and called the CGT "collabos". The CGT counted no less than 21 injured, including four hospitalised in Paris. An investigation was opened for "deliberate violence and damage in a meeting" by the Paris public prosecutor's office.

Violent attacks on workers

In Belarus, on 5 March 2021, officers of the District Department of Interior in the City of Minsk disrupted the founding conference of the students’ free trade unions. Breaking into the facility in plain clothes with masked faces and no insignia, they resorted to violence, apprehending several participants of the meeting who were later on sentenced to 15 days of detention for “defying a legitimate instruction of an officer”. To justify this violent interference, the authorities claimed that the event was held by an illegal organisation. Yet the Free Trade Union of Belarus, which had organised the conference, is an officially registered and a functioning organisation.

Right to free speech and assembly

15%

15% of countries in Europe restricted free speech and assembly.

Compared with 22% in 2021

Right to free speech and assembly

On May Day 2021, 212 demonstrators were detained in Istanbul, Turkey, for attempting to hold a protest in defiance of the government’s strict coronavirus lockdown rules. In the lead-up to the historic day, police closed all roads leading in to Taksim Square, the site where 34 people were killed in a 1977 May Day protest. Due to security concerns, a ban on May Day demonstrations in Taksim Square has been in effect for several years.

Right to free speech and assembly

When the Kazakh people started organising peaceful protests for democracy and social justice in January 2022, the police and armed forces responded with extreme brutality, killing more than 160 people and arresting more than 8,000 people.

Right to free speech and assembly

On 18 May 2021, the Bobruisk District and City Court convicted the chair of the workplace union at the JSC “Belshina” (tyre works), Sergei Gurlo. Gurlo was found guilty of violation of Article 369 of the criminal code for “insulting a law enforcement officer on social media”, which he allegedly did in 2020. Sergei was sentenced to 18 months of restriction of freedom in a clear attempt to restrict the right to expression of a trade union leader. The case was tried in closed hearing, and Sergei was forced to sign a non-disclosure document concerning the criminal case materials.

Right to free speech and assembly

On 8 June 2021, President Alexander Lukashenko signed new legislation that punishes those accused of participating in unauthorised demonstrations with imprisonment of up to three years. Those who are found to have participated in or promoted "extremist activity" would face up to six years in jail. The definition of “extremist activity” was not clearly defined in the new legislation, and fear arose that the new provisions would be used to suppress any dissent. This new law follows laws enacted on 24 May 2021 making it compulsory to obtain a permit from the authorities to organise mass events and prohibiting journalists from reporting live from such events.

Murders

Working people were murdered in Italy and Kazakhstan.

Murders

When the Kazakh people started organising peaceful protests for democracy and social justice in January 2022, the police and armed forces responded with extreme brutality, killing more than 160 people and arresting more than 8,000 people.

Murders

In Italy, thirty-seven-year old Adil Belakhdim was killed on 18 June 2021 in front of a Lidl distribution centre in Biandrate, northern Italy. He and 25 other logistics unionised workers were protesting at poor working conditions outside the entrance to a warehouse. A truck driver from a third-party supplier trying to leave the warehouse drove through a line of picketers blocking a gate. The vehicle struck Belakhdim and dragged him for several yards. Adil was killed, and two other protesters, also hit by the truck, suffered minor injuries.

In March 2022, P&O Ferries, owned by DP World, sacked 800 staff in the UK to replace them with cheaper agency workers paid below the minimum wage.Hollie Adams / AFP

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