Joint Statement by the United States and Canada on Belarus – International Labor Conference 2021

109th Session of the International Labor Conference, June 2021 

Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS)
Belarus – Convention No. 87

Joint Statement of the United States and Canada  

As Delivered by
Ethel Moreno
U.S. Department of Labor

June 7, 2021

I am speaking on behalf of the governments of the United States and Canada.

The ILO supervisory bodies have consistently monitored the Government of Belarus’s application of Convention 87 in follow-up to the findings of the 2004 Commission of Inquiry. After 17 years, the Government has yet to address the underlying issues and recommendations covered by the Commission. At the same time, new issues have emerged.

The Committee of Experts notes with concern that recent developments constitute a retreat by the Government from its obligations under the Convention. The Committee reports the use of extreme violence to repress peaceful protests and strikes, and the detention, imprisonment, and torture of workers while in custody. Government interference in the activities of trade unions continues, as evidenced recently by a high-level official who expressed a preference for a particular trade union while making a televised statement.

Respect for worker rights in Belarus has deteriorated in both law and practice. We urge the Government of Belarus to fully implement all measures recommended by the ILO supervisory bodies, in particular:

  • release all trade unionists who remain in detention and drop all charges related to peaceful participation in industrial action;
  • investigate all alleged instances of intimidation or physical violence against trade unionists through an independent judicial inquiry;
  • immediately cease acts of favoritism and interference in the establishment of trade unions;
  • amend the Law on Mass Activities and the accompanying Regulation to ensure individuals  and trade unions are able to freely exercise their right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly;
  • repeal the Ordinance of the Council of Ministers No. 49, which makes the exercise of the right to organize public meetings and demonstrations nearly impossible in practice;
  • make any necessary amendments to the Labor Code, following genuine consultation with the social partners, to allow workers’ organizations to organize their activities in full freedom;
  • ensure the BKDP and the FPB enjoy equal rights to consultation on legislative issues;
  • engage with the social partners, the ILO, and relevant national institutions to improve the functioning of the tripartite council.

The Government of Belarus needs to take immediate action to resolve these longstanding issues. To that end, we strongly urge the Government to avail itself of ILO technical assistance to ensure full compliance with its obligations under Convention 87.