On Tuesday 19 April 2022 a number of trade unionists were arrested in Belarus. These included the President of Belarusian Congress of Trade Unions (BKDP) Aliaksandr Yarashuk, BKDP Vice-President Siarhei Antusevich, President of Free Trade Union of Metal Workers (SPM) Aliaksandr Bukhvostau, and President of Free Trade Union of Belarus (SPB) Mikalaj Sharakh among other trade unionists, independent journalists and human rights activists.
These arrests occurred shortly after Belarusian authorities declared several unions as “extremist organizations”.
During these arrests, the premises of the BKDP, SPB, SPM and Union of Radio-Electronic Workers (REP) and the homes of trade union leaders and employees were searched. The searches covered Personal Computers, personal documents, passports, bank cards (including those of family members), SIM cards of foreign mobile operators and trade union paraphernalia.
This comes less than a month after the premises of ITF affiliate Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) were searched by police – along with the homes and mobile phones of the workplace leadership and local activists – reportedly in search for lists of union members working in the state-owned oil company Naftan in Novopolotsk.
These arrests and attacks on trade unionists are yet another example of the continued harassment and ruthless targeting of independent trade unions in Belarus, and the Belarussian government’s assault on human and workers’ rights.
Since the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests, where many chose to express their opposition to the presidential election through industrial action, independent trade unions have been central to the opposition to the authoritarian regime of Belarus. The situation for independent trade unions is continually and rapidly deteriorating, and their members are subject to severe discrimination at the workplace.
These developments are deeply concerning, and we call on you to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters, to demand the immediate release of trade unionists, and to contact your governments prompting immediate intervention. Please support the call of global unions by signing the petition found here.