Last Friday Belaruskali, one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of potash fertilizers in the world, announced that if the government refuses to fulfill their requirements, they will stop all work on Monday morning. They demand new elections, the release of all political prisoners, and the resignation of those who allowed violence in Belarus. Today Belaruskali announced that they have stopped all work.
At 8 am on Monday there’s a crowd of miners standing at the entrance to the production site sharing why they decided to go on strike.
“We want to show solidarity with the whole country. Our requirements have not been fulfilled that is why we’ve gone on strike. We will continue to be on strike until our requirements are fulfilled,” they explain.
This is not the first strike for Belaruskali. Men recall strikes they had back at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s.
“It was a long time ago,” they note.
“Authorities say that if you stop production, people will lose their pays. Doesn’t that stop you?” TUT.BY reporter asks.
“We’re in the very bottom of this chain, and we won’t lose as much as Lukashenko will,” replies one of the men.
Another man continues: “We’re losing much more by losing freedom. You can always get deals and agreements back at any time.”
The workers say that they understand where this strike will lead to, but there’s no other option left.
“We want to resolve this peacefully. Stopping production at Belaruskali is a shock for the economy. The government needs to have money to pay to doctors and teachers and other workers who get paid from the budget. We understand it very well, but we don’t see any other way to make the government hear us.”
Workers enter into the main hall to meet with the company management. Among people present, some have just ended their night shift and some are on official vacation. The meeting with the company management lasted for 30 minutes. The management called for the employees to write down their requirements, and not to stop production.
“We don’t have any other choice! We’ve been bribed of our votes, and then they started killing our children! When we work we sponsor riot police shoot people!” Belaruskali employees shouted.
They voted for the strike almost unanimously. They have formed strike groups and now they are in the process of getting official notification of the management through the trade union.
On the site people actively discuss everything. They ask the same question over and over again: why after all the abuse that the detained people have gone through the Minister of the Internal Affairs Yuri Karaev did not resign?
“Someone else should take his place. But this doesn’t happen. Thousands of people go out in the streets. Officials in Brest and Vitebsk at least began talking to people and trying to explain something. But it’s impossible to forget the tyranny that happened throughout the country,” miners are outraged.
“Who in your opinion should resign now?” TUT.BY correspondent asks.
“Everyone! Starting from Lukashenko and ending with mayors of all cities, all riot police should be detained! They began killing us as a nation starting from the spring (*they refer to COVID-19 when the government did not allow lockdown and kept the epidemic statistics in secret – BelarusFeed note), and now they detain you just because they didn’t like your facial expression when you looked at them.
It’s dangerous to go back home at midnight after the workday. My wife saw police beating up a man just in the middle of the residential area. They just beat him up, loaded him in the bus as if he’s just a piece of meat. Many stories like this one are happening here.”
“There’s no word from the General Prosecutor about this!”
Today people speak from the stairs on site of Belaruskali. Director of one of the divisions Viktor Getmanov as well former deputy and the chairman of the trade union Andrey Rybak go up the stairs to speak. When Andrey Rybak tries to speak, people don’t want to listen to what he has to say.
“You wanted to hear what I have to say?” he asks 100−150 people standing in front of him.
“No!”, people shout out. “We wanted to hear what you have to say a week ago”.
When Viktor Getmanov speaks up, people listen. He’s been working with them for the past 37 years. But they reply “right now the only way out is to go on a strike”.
“We can shout here, we can yell and talk, but I can’t promise you here that Lukashenko will leave tomorrow. I can’t promise you to bring here the policemen who mistreated and beat our people. We must decide in an organized and civilized manner. Stopping work here is a huge problem for everyone,” says Viktor Getmanov.
“Viktor Nikolayevich, we deeply respect you, but no!” men shout out. “He must leave!”
The Deputy Head of Independent Trade Unions Alexander Mishuk is also present at this meeting. Miners encourage him to speak up.
“Today our country is going through historical events. Our production site is crucial for the whole country, but the decision we’ve made is the consequence of what’s been going on. We did not just decide to go on strike.” People start applauding.
“The first thing was the sham elections. They bribed us of our votes. Guys, many of you have seen your friends beaten up and crippled. All we wanted was to get our votes back. We did not want blood, nobody went out with knives or sticks. We just walked. We were peaceful. And what happened in response to this peaceful protest is mayhem. I suggest to form strike groups, let’s work out requirements, and send them to our director. Who’s in?”
Almost everyone raised their hands.
The text is translated by Tatiana Volkova