The Global Solidarity Conference of LabourStart was held in Tbilisi, Georgia, gathering hundreds of trade union leaders and activists from around the world. The conference was organized by LabourStart in partnership with the Confederation of Trade Unions of Georgia and took place from April 28 to 30. The main theme of the conference was "Trade Union Internationalism Today," but there were also plenary sessions and workshops in sections.
Not only general topics were discussed at the conference, but also problems related to specific countries, including Belarus. There was a section on "Struggle for Trade Union Rights in Belarus", where Maksim Paznyakou acting chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDT), Lizaveta Merliak leader of Salidarnast e.V. Association, and Yury Ravavy, leader of “Rabochy Rukh” were among the speakers.
- We see how capitalists, transnational companies and dictatorial regimes in different parts of the world are cracking down on workers: they suppress strikes by force in Kazakhstan, kill workers in the streets of Myanmar, rot trade unionists in prisons in Belarus. We see how heroically our brothers and sisters in Ukraine fight for freedom, democracy and their future," said the acting chairman of the BCDP. - It is an uneven fight, because we do not have as many resources and money as they do, we do not have weapons and military equipment. We have only our word, our lives and our Solidarity.
Lizaveta Merliak addressed the conference:
- I am a member of the Executive board of LabourStart, and also a Belarusian unionist and an extremist, and consequently a politically displaced Belarusian. There are tragically many of us, those who fall under this category, of displaced people. Also in this audience today. Those who cannot go home freely without fear of being put to prison.
She spoke about the current situation in Belarus and the fact that trade union activists in exile founded the organization "Salidarnast" to support trade union activists arrested and convicted by the Lukashenko regime:
- In partnership and support of the International Trade Union Confederation, IndustriALL Global union, the IUF, the PSI, and the European trade union confederation, we have launched a LabourStart solidarity information campaign “Unionism is not extremism” to remind the world about the oppressed trade unionists in Belarus. And we need your solidarity to make our voice, the democratic anti-war voice of Belarusian workers, heard.
The participants of the conference held an action of solidarity with Belarusian trade union activists who are now in prison or have been convicted. Dozens of trade union leaders and activists were photographed with portraits of trade union activists.
Other important topics discussed included workers' rights in Qatar, Turkey, Palestine, the use of Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter for trade union work, and the success of global information campaigns for trade union rights.
LabourStart has been holding global solidarity conferences for more than 10 years. Previous conferences have been held in London, Washington, D.C., Hamilton (Ontario), Istanbul, Sydney, Berlin and Toronto. The largest of these gathered 450 participants in Berlin in 2014.
The Global Solidarity Conference LabourStart is an important event for unions from all over the world, providing an opportunity for leaders and activists to discuss important topics and coordinate their actions.