The Belarusian government has not fully broken with the Soviet period and continues to believe that trade unions are more or less part of the state machinery. It has thus attempted to block and undermine the activities of independent unions.
Several complaints about attacks on trade union rights have been submitted to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since the mid-1990s. With no improvement in the situation and following a specific complaint submitted in 2003, the ILO set up a special commission of inquiry whose report was adopted by the ILO in July 2004.
More or less at the same time the ICFTU (forerunner of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)) and the ETUC approached the European Commission about the violation of trade union rights in Belarus. The Commission set up its own investigation and in monitoring the situation found that the government had failed to take any proper steps to implement the ILO recommendations. As a consequence the European Council agreed to exclude Belarus from the EU’s system of preferential trade arrangements.
An ITUC report of December 2010 provides information on the extent to which legislation in Belarus limits trade union activity as well as the continuing intimidation and harassment of independent trade unionists. Further information is available in the ITUC’s 2013 annual survey of violations of trade union rights.
The ILO NATLEX database entry for Belarus provides information on how the government is applying or failing to apply the ILO Conventions it has signed up to as well as details of complaints against it.