Vasil Leuchankau: ‘New Law on Trade Unions Is Death Sentence to Us’

2007 2007-02-15T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

About a year ago Vasil Leuchankau became the head of the Free trade union of steelworkers (FTUSW). It was the time when the organization first with the first manifestations of the state pressurization. In his interview to Salidarnasts electroic newspaper the trade union leader told about the present situation of the organization.

- One of the most complicated situations is observed at Lios enterprise. The negotiations concerning the collective agreement between the employer

and representatives of a primary unit of our organizations have continued there since January. Being the head of this primary unit, I take participate in these

negotiations as well. There is no confidence that the employer will sign this agreement.

Besides, several weeks ago the administration has prepared discharge of four activists of the trade union who are qualified workers due to the expiry of their contracts on 1 March. Representatives of the employer openly stated that it was connected to their trade union activities.

It’s quite interesting that when the deputy prime-minister Uladzimir Siamashka was surprised to hear about it from the chair of the Belarusian congress of democratic trade unions Aliaksandr Iarashuk at the National council on social matters and said that Lios lacked staff. I think that only thanks to this reaction the working contract was prolonged to one of the workers, one was fired and the other two didn’t receive the discharge notes. The trade union still works, but it is quite difficult to deal with it, as the administrations of many enterprises simply refuse to give legal addresses to the primary units of trade unions thus depriving them of the possibility to obtain state registration, without which they can’t operate legally. It concerns our primary units in Minsk and Barysau. It’s worth saying that such refusal is not considered as a law violation. That’s why the root of the problem is in the legislation.

- Now there are many debates on the draft law On trade union, the conception of which has already received publicity. What do you think about its content?

- Yes, in spring the Ministry of Justice, the Federation of Trade Unions, etc. want to prepare a draft law that will change the order of registration. However, the draft law we are speaking of is a death sentence to us. It is well known that the introduction of the norm of trade union representation is planned. If now one needs 500 persons to register a republican trade union, then it will take at least 8 500! None of the existent trade unions would take this barrier. That’s why I am naturally against this law.

- How can you characterize the work of FTUSW in 2006 in general?

- The last year was neither better nor worse than the others, as the legislation hasn’t changed. At the same time we lose members as FTUSW members are pressurized by the authorities of their enterprises. It is quite easy to intimidate people now. They simply ask a worker to choose between the trade union and contract. In the case it continues this way we will lose numbers and it is almost annihilation. It would be simpler if the authorities refused from at least one axe – legal address or contract system of employment…

The positive moment is that we have survived. We hope for improvement of the political climate in the country and legislation. We expect that the new law will ease the registration of primary units so that we will be able to establish primary units in the working collectives that still don’t have them. We really believe in it, otherwise we would have ceased to exist. We will struggle for such changes as we don’t have other variants and Belarus can’t walk so long down a dark corridor.