Dismissed trade union leader protects rights in court
The Polatsk District Court has refused to consider a lawsuit lodged by trade union activists Viktar Stukau against his former employer, JSC “Polatsk-Shklovalakno”. The lawsuit urging to eliminate employment discrimination came after fresh evidence appeared in the activist’s conflict with the major state-owned enterprise. Earlier, the court refused to consider Viktar Stukau’s complaint in March 2013.
Viktar Stukau started suing his employer immediately after his dismissal. According to the activist, former machine operator, he was fired after the independent trade union intensified its activities at the enterprise. The official reason for his dismissal was breach of health and safety requirements. Late in 2012, the administration of Polatsk-Shklovalakno tried to dismiss Mr. Stukau and Mikalai Sharakh, deputy head of the Free Trade Union’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 required the consent of the pro-government trade union only, while the FTU merely receives a notification on the decision two weeks before the dismissal.
In March 2013, the company’s director, Mikalai Kachanouski, used the discriminatory provision of the collective agreement in order to dismiss Viktar Stukau, chairman of the Free Trade Union’s local office. He tried to defend his right to work in the court, as the Labor Code entitles the worker to do so, if he considers that this constitutes discrimination in labor relations. However, the courts of all levels refused to examine his claims.
When denying Stukau’s suit in June 2013, the Polatsk District Court advised him to contact the trade union to eliminate discrimination through collective agreements. The recommendation was followed, but the commission on collective agreements refused to change the contract. From July 31, this commission ceased to exist, after the collective agreement expired. Viktar Stukau tried to use these circumstances now to once again raise the issue of discrimination against him during his dismissal. The attempt was again unsuccessful, after he received the same recommendation from the court.
“The old collective agreement has expired, but on August 1 a new one was adopted. And the discriminatory provision was automatically adopted, too: the workers again face discrimination on the grounds of their membership in the union. That is, facing the threat of dismissal, members of the FTU will again be repressed with the consent of the other, pro-government trade union. Thus, they ignored both the right to work and the right to voluntary participation in public associations, and in the end – the right to an independent and impartial trial,” says Viktar Stukau.
He is convinced that his dismissal is due to the strengthening of confidence in the Free Trade Union – both at Polatsk-Shklovalakno and at other enterprises. He is still the chairman of the FTU’s office at the enterprise. However, after he was dismissed, he faces serious problems: for example, he is not allowed to the territory of the company to witness the conditions in which people work.