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ILO Doesn’t Expect Any Progress From Belarus

ILO Doesn’t Expect Any Progress From Belarus
By Marina Rakhley
Belorusskie Novosty
Belarusian Minister of Labour and Social Defence Vladimir Potupchik is visiting a  session of the Administrative Council of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on 6-20 March in Geneva, to report how the country is trying to fulfil the ILO’s recommendations.
The Belarusian issue is placed at the end of the agenda – our progress in keeping to the ILO’s standards will be discussed on 19 or 20 March. Last time, the Administrative Council looked into the Belarusian issue in November 2007.
In his interview to BelaPAN, Executive Director of the ILO International Labour Bureau Kari Tapiola said that it would be an ad-hoc discussion. “As far as I know there has not been any noticeable progress with the trade unions legislation in Belarus,” said Tapiola.
Director of the ILO International Labour Bureau said that experts “have very little information about the Belarusian question”. This is why Belarusian officials will be given a chance to voice their opinion again. The report about the Belarusian government trying to fulfil the ILO’s recommendations will be presented by Minister of Labour and Social Defence Vladimir Potupchik.
At the same time, Chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU) Alexander Yaroshuk is convinced that the WLO “has been busy” collecting information about the Belarusian authorities’ attempts to change the situation with trade unions. The trade union leader describes the Belarusian government as being passive. He said that the Belarusian side did not succeed in fulfilling the ILO’s recommendations and keeps interfering into the work of trade unions.
The BCDTU leader reckons that the most efficient way to have some effect on the authorities is for the ILO to implement strict control on the situation in Belarus but not sanctions. Yaroshuk said that the Belarusian authorities have come to realise that the only way to get back into the General System of Preferences is to fulfil the ILO’s recommendations.
International trade union institutions looked into the violations of trade unions rights in Belarus in 2003. The ILO was the first to respond – they sent a commission in autumn 2004 that found “serious violations in trade unions rights” and provided certain recommendations. For instance, the Belarusian authorities were advised to provide the freedom of association according to the current regulations.
Since the EU does not provide any trade preferences for countries that violate trade unions rights, the European Commission initiated the expulsion of Belarus from the General System of Preferences. The Belarusian government did not make much effort to adjust the national labour legislation to the international standard and as a result, Belarus completely lost trade preferences with the EU in June 2007.
Brussels also stated that when the ILO membership obligations are fulfilled accordingly, trade preference might be restored within several weeks.
Numerous experts would always point out that unlike the EU, the ILO did not take any serious sanctions against Belarus. In fact, Belarus was put on the special list five times with the countries that did not keep their obligations. However, such a punishment did not stop Belarus from being elected as a member of the ILO Administrative Council in East and Central Europe for three years.
Since official Minsk is concerned about getting trade preferences back, independent trade unions can hope that after a couple of more sessions Belarus will eventually fulfil the ILO’s recommendations.

 

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