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Former customs officer elected as FPB President

On April 05, 2024, the IX Extraordinary Congress of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus was held in Minsk with Yurii Sianko elected as the Chairman of this pro-government TU center. The former FPB President Mikhail Orda who was the head of the FPB for 10 years was sent to serve as an MP in the lower chamber of the national Parliament.

Сянько раней узначальваў Мытны камітэт \\ photo -
Sianko previously headed the Customs Committee \\ photo -

Yuryi Alekseevich Sianko was de facto appointed the leader of the Trade Union Federation of Belarus. The FPB web-site tell us that he was born in 1967 in the Karelicheski District of the Grodna Region. There, after finishing his schooling in 1984, he began working as a combine-harvester assistant operator, then an agricultural machinery maintenance worker and joined the union. Here, however, his career as a trade unionist comes to an end. So, one can instantly recognize in him an experienced fighter for workers’ interests worthy of leading a four-million-strong national TU center.

The remaining thirty years of his work record he served in the State Customs Committee and even had time to work as its Head, after which he was appointed Belarus’ Ambassador Extraordinary to the People’s Republic of China.

By the way, he was “elected” as a single candidate, there were no alternative nominations. In essence, this means that he was appointed by Lukashenko just as the former FPB leaders, Leanid Kozik and Mikhail Orda.

Speaking to journalists, Yuryi Sianko said:

“There is a good tradition now among the Government, the employers, and the unions in terms of finding solutions. It’s not about having disputes, it’s not about fighting, it’s precisely about jointly looking for a solution in the preparation for adopting this or that piece of law.” A clear testament of the FPB’s “good old traditions”.

Workers, as the new FPB leader understands it, should work and should not be distracted from work by fighting for their interests. Defending trade union members, in Sianko’s opinion, is a task for the official unions:

“A worker should work in production, should not bother themselves thinking if they indeed know the basics of the labour, civil, and administrative legislation. A worker should carry out his work-related duties. Defending his interests, creating conditions free from violations is the unions’ job”, pointed out Yuryi Sianko.

He added that trade unions would continue putting a particular emphasis on the consolidation of the society so that people could progress all together towards common goals.

“This is the unity of our nation, the preservation of our country’s traditions that Belarusians so lovingly guard today’” stated the new President of the pro-government TU center.

During the interview, he also said that the FPB would continue developing international cooperation. In all probability, it is his experience as a customs officer and a diplomat rather than his trade union calling that explains his appointment to the post.

It should be noted that the ILO invoked Article 33 of its Constitution against Belarus in response to the systemic violations of workers’ rights in the country. The FPB under Mikhail Orda was tasked to make sure that this decision was never taken. Yet the delegation of the pro-government unions, the government, and the employers at the ILC failed to deliver. Most probably, it is this failure that has triggered the changes in the FPB leadership.

The FPB leader who is more versed in international matters will now have to focus all efforts on the strengthening of the Belarusian Government’s position in the ILO, as well as building ties with trade union conters of the Global South.

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