We expect that the European Union will continue to put human, trade union and workers' rights first

The six representatives of the international union movement met with Luc Devigne, the deputy managing director for Europe and central Asia at the European External Action Service on January 16.

The delegation expressed their anger and concerns over the absence of democratic standards in Belarus, which has resulted in the demolition of civil society, including independent trade unions, at a time when the EU is in talks with the country's regime over a partnership agreement.

Devigne was also reminded that Belarussian authorities systematically deny registration of independent trade unions under invented pretexts in violation of national legislation as well as international standards.

"We expect that the European Union will continue to put human, trade union and workers' rights first in their conversations with the Belarusian government,” said Luc Triangle of IndustriAll Europe.

“The situation in Belarus is highly critical and the European Union has the key in hand to change the reality for Belarusian people and workers.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says Belarus is guilty of consistent and serious violations of labour rights, including those enshrined in core labour standards.

IndustriAll and our sister organisations specifically raised the unfair trial of Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik, two union leaders from Belarus Radio & Electronics Workers’ Union, who were convicted of tax evasion despite the absence of evidence.

They were ordered to pay a large fine, were given a four-year suspended prison term, and are subject to a ban on holding senior positions for five years.

Fedynich and Komlik are also confined to their flats at certain times of day, weekends and public holidays, meaning they are effectively under house arrest.

“They are clearly political prisoners of conscience,” said IndustriAll Global assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan. “We once again urged the EU to raise the issue of political prisoners in Belarus with the authorities of the country and support our demand to review the verdict, and provide a full and unconditional acquittal for Fedynich and Komlik.”

The organisations involved in the delegation – IndustriAll, the International Trade Union Confederation, the European Trade Union Confederation and the Pan-European Regional Council – have written to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs to raise the case and the fact an appeal has been rejected.

Unions expect that respect to democracy, human and trade union rights must be part of the priorities of the intended partnership between the EU and Belarus, and jurisprudence of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights must be among the references.

Yet, as of January 1, 2019, the notorious 'Decree 1 on social parasites’ has entered into force. It contains elements of forced labour and creates additional ways to manipulate workers’ rights in additions to fixed-term contracts system. In order to apply the new decree a special data base has been created.