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4 Dec 2020

Alex Ivanou,

Belarus: Workers protest for rights and democracy, despite pandemic and threats from govt.

PROFILE: Struggle for democracy in Belarus, 18 November 2020

In the last three months, Belarus has become known for the protests that started when the former president of the country, Alexandre Lukashenko, awarded himself 80 per cent of the votes in a widely contested election. Unprovoked police violence followed the rigged elections, triggering the protests.

Belarus has a reputation for systemic violating of freedom of association and fundamental workers’ rights, including the introduction of compulsory fixed-term contracts aiming to intimidate workers, the denial of basic freedoms and the suppression of independent and free civil society institutions and trade unions...

Workers and unions never stopped fighting for their rights, even in a shrinking space for protests. The first time riot police was used in independent Belarus was at the subway drivers’ strike in 1995...

In a recent attempt to stop demonstrations, the Lukashenko regime has forced workers to create compulsory local unions at all private companies, threatening to close the companies if they refuse. At the same time, the regime has promised to remove collective agreement benefits from workers if this request is not met.

However, independent unions in Belarus continue their organizing efforts. Despite the difficulties of the pandemic and a lack of human and financial resources, they recruit more and more members. New local unions are formed, raising their voices and demands...