Free trade union leader to sue employer over dismissal
Viktar Stukau, activist of the Free Trade Union of Belarus, fired for allegedly violating safety rules, is suing his employer. He believes that the administration of the Polatsk-Shklovalakno state-owned enterprise initiated his dismissal on spurious reasons, and the true cause for it was his activities in the independent trade union.
The lawsuit is expected to be heard today at Polatsk Town Court.
“I appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office, the town executive committee, and Polatsk Interdistrict Labor Inspectorate. But none of the agencies took responsibility to reinstate me at Polatsk-Shklovalakno. That’s why I’m going to court, because I think that both my right to work and the rules of international law on freedom of association were violated. After all, I am head of the FTU’s office, and my dismissal is intimidation of my associates,” says Viktar Stukau.
The activist is convinced that he was fired so that his employer could have less trouble: in 2012 the FTU community struggled to raise the workers’ wages and to make the administration not to forget about safety standards. However, it was for violations of these very rules that Viktar Stukau was fired. He believes that it is not difficult to find a reason for imposing disciplinary penalties:
“For example, every worker in our shop number 7 should work with glasses on. But they are inconvenient to work with, and we sometimes wear them and sometimes move them on the forehead – and it is a violation! However, they only fire trade union activists for these types of violations... Meanwhile, our work is not limited to the “native” enterprise. For example, we have provided consultations to the employees of the local winery who resented their wages and wanted to create their own office of the FTU.”
The Free Trade Union adopted a statement on the dismissal of Viktar Stukau, which states that “the director of the enterprise violated the Law on Trade Unions of Belarus and his actions are an obstacle to the activities of the Free Trade Union.”
Late last year, the administration of Polatsk-Shklovalakno tried to dismiss Mr. Stukau and Mikalai Sharakh, deputy head of the FTU’s Vitsebsk regional office. But this did not happen: according to what was then the collective agreement, the administration had to negotiate the dismissal with two unions – the official one and the FTU. As a result, the independent trade union activists voted against it. But after that the company’s administration amended the collective agreement, and the employment contract now requires the consent of the pro-government trade union only, while the FTU merely receives a notification on the decision two weeks before the dismissal.
Viktar Stukau says he will not stop his activities in the Free Trade Union. He now works as a volunteer for the FTU.
The activist hopes to challenge the dismissal in court. And it was not the first dismissal for him: in 2009 he was threatened with termination of his employment contract, and in 2004 he was unemployed for nearly six weeks. He was eventually re-hired by the same company, after the activist was supported by the International Labor Organization.