Countrypage Belarus

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TIE-Netherlands has been supporting the independent democratic trade union BKDP (Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions) since 1997. A new project started in 2012; it is financially backed by FNV Bondgenoten (the largest trade union in the Netherlands) and the EU.  

Belarus is known as the last remaining dictatorship in Europe, with President Alexander Lukashenko ruling the country with an iron fist since 1994. Any attempts by citizens or organisations towards freedom and independence are crushed by his authoritarian regime, sometimes with brute force, often with devious bureaucratic means. Independent trade unions and media are a constant target, and as a result find themselves in an unrelenting struggle for survival.

Opposition and repression by the authorities was further solidified after the elections in 2012. Political organisations, demonstrations and strike actions were made illegal, and numerous political leaders were arrested. Currently, BKDP chairman Alexander Yaroshuk has been forbidden to leave the country, and any attempts to register new unions are systematically rejected.  

Nevertheless, it is not all doom and gloom. Despite its most devious and intimidating efforts, Lukashenko’s regime has as yet failed to destroy the BKDP. The union maintains a steady membership of 10.000, with some members leaving, but with others joining. In addition, violations of trade union rights in Belarus has become a top priority on the ILO agenda.

The current TIE project focuses on reinforcing the internal organisation and mobilising force of the BKDP and its member unions. Local, national and international training is provided to union members, so as to improve their knowledge and ability to defend their rights. The current project concentrates on strengthening the position of four particular groups of workers: youth, women, instructors and health-and-safety experts.    

FNV members are closely involved in implementing TIE’s projects in Belarus. The Working Group on International Solidarity - Metal deliberates on strategy and offers advice and guidance. By actively participating they are in the position to exchange knowledge and experiences concerning safety, negotiations, organisation and gender, with their colleagues in Belarus.

A good example is the 'Train-the-Trainers program that focuses on Occupational Health & Safety (OS&H) and is set up, coordinated and run byFNV members Ton Kitzen and Wim Dekkers. The goal of this project is to teach the BKDP activists to have more structure in their OS&H policies. In Belarus there is little structure in terms of OS&H and both employees, employers and experts have little knowledge about OS&H. As a result,workers are exposed to health risks and accidents at work. Ton and Wim are working on their program since early 2012 and continue until mid-2013. at the end of 2012, they handed over a manual on OS&H, developed by them and based on their practical experiences. See here a videoof their work. Below are some articles.

Members of the BKDP, in part thanks to TIE, are now better equipped to put forth their interests and concerns during negotiations with company management and union decision-makers. This is especially true for female members, who established a BKDP Women’s Network in 2006. The union continues to diversify; there are currently signs of a youth network being established, and notably, members are becoming increasingly aware of problems such as corruption inside the unions. Furthermore, a lot more attention is now given to the education of members; an Education Commission has been established and a National Committee of Instructors has been put in charge of ensuring the sustainability of training given within the BKDP.

Links

- For more articles on Belarus, please click here
- For information on the projects in Belarus, mail Anna Ensing: anna@tie-netherlands.nl
- For more information on the BKDP and Belarus visit:

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