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Swedish trade unions and Salidarnast discussed the situation of labour rights in Belarus

Updated: Feb 15

On January 24-26, representatives of the Swedish trade unions and Salidarnast met in Bremen to discuss current labour rights issues in Belarus.

The delegation from the Swedish trade union federations LO, TCO and Saco (including their affiliates ST, Unionen, SSR, SRAT) and Union to Union came for a study visit for further cooperation with Salidarnast e.V. The meeting, which took place in the Bremen Trade Union House, was an important platform for the exchange of information and strategic ideas to influence the situation of trade union rights in Belarus.

Lizaveta Merliak, the chairperson of Salidarnast, presented the organization's international and humanitarian activities. Maryia Taradzetskaya outlined the framework of the association's cooperation in the public sector with doctors, teachers and students from Belarus. The support of Belarusian trade unions suppressed by the authorities was discussed, as were plans to cooperate in the release of imprisoned trade union activists and leaders.

The second day of the meeting was devoted to the discussion on the application of Article 33 of the Constitution of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to Belarus and the problem of forced labour. Maksim Pazniakou, the acting chairman of the BKDP, reported on his experience with the application of Article 33 and the difficulties associated with it.

Maria Zharylouskaya reported on the practice of forced labour in the country and on the information campaign aimed at drawing the Belarusian and foreign attention to this problem. The information gathered will be included in the report for the ILO and the appeal to the UN Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of slavery. The lawyer of Salidarnast Leanid Sudalenka, a former political prisoner, spoke about his personal experiences in prison, the working conditions and the attitude towards political prisoners.

The visit by the Swedish trade unionists also included a meeting with the first woman President of the Bremen Parliament, Antje Grotheer. The representative of the Social Democratic Party emphasized the importance of supporting trade unionists from Belarus.

She pointed out that the city's hanseatic history and international trade determine Bremen's internationality and multiculturalism. That is why the city authorities understand trade union activists from Belarus, just as representatives of the Polish "Solidarność" found their second home in the city in the early 1980s.

The Bremen trade union chairman Ernesto Harder, who played an important role in the resettlement of Belarusian trade union activists to Bremen, noted that the support of the city administration and the DGB made it possible to help political refugees immediately. And today, the activists of Salidarnast e.V. have become part of the Bremen trade union family and society.

Maksim Pazniakou, in turn, thanked both the President of the Parliament and the Chairman of the Bremen trade unions for the fact that the city has become a second home for Belarusian trade unionists and their families and a platform for the further struggle for democracy and the trade union movement: "This step of solidarity is important for the entire global trade union movement".

Lizaveta Merliak and Antje Grotheer
Lizaveta Merliak and Antje Grotheer

At the end of the meeting, Lizaveta Merliak presented the President of Parliament with a T-shirt with an appeal for the release of political prisoners in Belarus and emphasized the importance of global solidarity for the protection of human rights.

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