CGIL – an Italian trade union confederation with 130 years of history, known as the most left-wing of all Italian unions – is holding its annual festival in Bologna these days. The festival Forna Manifesta is organized from the grassroots, which makes the atmosphere very authentic and familiar. Many volunteers are on the festival site, it`s a noisy hive where everyone shares their part of the work.
On July 5, Lizaveta Merliak, the chairperson of Salidarnast, had the honor of participating in a panel discussion on the workers’ struggle against authoritarianism and fascism. The panelists were women from Iran, Myanmar, Italy and Belarus, who gave the impression that the uprising against right-wing authoritarian regimes is entirely the task of women.
Among the most frightening examples of repression against people in general, women in particular, and trade unions as one of the most active civil society organizations were Iran, Myanmar and Belarus.
There is always a strikingly dramatic difference between the atrocities workers face under dictatorships. Imprisonment, killings, torture, bombings…. and yet workers around the world are organizing for justice in their societies, often from exile.
In her speech, the chairperson of Salidarnast gave an overview of the general violations of human and labour rights that have been taking place in Belarus for over 2 decades. She highlighted that among the 1500 political prisoners in Belarus there are at least 44 trade unionists and workers’ activists, many of whom are classified as extremists and even terrorists. Forced labour of political prisoners was also mentioned. The newfound tool against violations of the
freedom of association in Belarus that trade unions have been advocating for —Article 33 of the ILO Constitution and the Trade Union Strategy to make the most of it — is the issue that international trade unions are addressing and beginning to use.
Lizaveta Merliak pointed out that a precondition to any form of dialogue with Belarus authorities should be the release of political prisoners. She highlighted the emergency of one of the points of the International Labour Conference resolution on Belarus, namely the need to support trade unionists who had to leave Belarus with providing of political asylum.
There were several agreements for solidarity actions in support of Belarusian unionists reached during side meetings of the festival.