At Belaruskali [one of the world’s biggest producers and exporters of potash fertilizers], where one of the strongest strike committees in the country operates, 101 workers have already joined the strike, the press service of the strike committee reports. More than half of them have already been fired. At the same time, new workers continue to join the strike almost every day.
In the morning of 1 December, two more Belaruskali workers joined the strike: mine tractor driver Viktor Gurinovich and mine electric engineer Pavel Zhikh.
Explaining his position in a written statement, Victor Gurinovich says: “Our Motherland is in terrible trouble. And we, her children, found ourselves at the heart of the tragedy! The power bloc uses repressions against own people, against their voice, against peaceful protest, against the future of our Motherland. The country is suffocating in waves of illegal persecution on political grounds. The country is suffocating from lies and discrimination against national culture and language.
We are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe: torture, abuse, murder, violence against dissidents, ordinary civilians – this is what happens here every day. Is that a civilized country of the XXI century? Why did this happen? What was the last straw? Why is the spring no longer compressed?! The reason is one – people of Belarus is tired of unprofessionalism, rudeness and inadequacy of the illegitimate government, which instead of dialogue offers only harsh pressure and aggression.”
Viktor Gurinovich explains that the only peaceful way he sees to fight for his rights is to join the national strike and support the demands of the Belaruskali strike committee.
The press service of the strike committee of the enterprise said that, according to the latest data, 101 employees of Belaruskali took part in the strike. 55 of them have already been dismissed. What will happen to the rest of the strikers is unknown.
The average number of employees for 2019 was 16,500 people.
Belaruskali and its partners’ reaction
On 20 November, the official telegram channel of Belaruskali published a post stating that in their applications to join the strike, workers refer to acts of national and civil law, which “do not even contain a definition of a ‘strike’ and do not provide for the procedure for its announcement and implementation”.
“[…] Thus, the refusal of workers to fulfill their labor duties in connection with joining a ‘strik’ is contrary to national and international legislation, does not apply to valid reasons for not showing up at work, and the only legal consequence of such actions is the employee’s dismissal for absenteeism.”
On 25 November, Norwegian company Yara, one of the world’s largest suppliers of mineral fertilizers and one of the key clients of the Belarusian Potash Company, published another press release, in which it expressed its concern about the situation at Belaruskali.
“Yara continues to purchase potash from BPC and Belaruskali. Over the past months, we have engaged in a frequent dialogue with Belaruskali management where we have expressed concern about workers’ rights and the well-being of the workforce. We still believe in dialogue as a tool for improvement, but we are increasingly concerned about the situation, also given the deteriorating political and security situation in the country,” reads the statement.
In September, Yara management representatives traveled to Belarus to meet with Belaruskali management and unions. Additional physical meetings have since not been possible due to the pandemic.