Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote a letter to the President and CEO of Yara International, Svein Tore Holsether. She expressed gratitude for the position against violence, the support of the people of Belarus and striking workers at Belaruskali.
Nevertheless, despite Yara's attempts to establish a dialogue with the top management of Belaruskali, the level of repression is growing. At least 55 employees were fired for striking and expressing their position. Strike committee co-chairman Anatoli Bokun spent almost two months in prison. Dzmitry Kudzelevich, a member of the Belaruskali strike committee, was detained and forced to flee directly from the KGB department to Ukraine. The workers fear new repressions, dismissals and abductions of members of the strike committee.
Belaruskali's leadership continues to intimidate workers, and the strikers approached Yara with a list of 43 pieces of evidence of such pressure. Sviatlana Tsikhanoukaya believes that Yara should suspend or revise the contract with the Belarusian partner. The Norwegian company should stipulate cooperation with Belaruskali until the repression against workers stops.
With over 130 striking workers, Tsikhanouskaya urged Yara to create a fund to help the strikers. This would serve as an example for other Western firms that could create an international fund of solidarity with Belarusian workers.
The full text of the letter:
«Dear Mr Svein Tore Holsether,
Firstly, let us express our gratitude for your principled position on the situation in Belarus. We appreciate your clear and consistent view on the continued suppression of human and workers’ rights in Belarus and at JSC Belaruskali specifically.
As a long-term partner of one of Belarus’s biggest state-run companies, Yara International showed its commitment to the universal human rights agenda. The company’s management travelled to Belarus and presented their position to the director of Belaruskali where repressions against workers take place on a massive scale and workers are being fired and harassed. Yara was one of the first Western companies that expressed concerns over violation of workers’ rights in Belarus.
However, despite Yara’s attempts to have a conversation with Belaruskali top management, the level of repressions is increasing. Dozens of workers were jailed and fined. The co-chairman of the Belaruskali strike committee, Anatol Bokun, was detained multiple times and spent almost two months in prison. Dmitry Kudelevich, a member of the strike committee, was reported missing by his colleagues, ended in the KGB and later had to flee Belarus in fear of repression.
At least 55 Belaruskali employees have been fired for striking and expressing their position. Workers fear that more reports of kidnapped leaders and activists will follow.
We therefore would like to ask Yara International to pay further attention to the developments in Belarus, the situation at Belaruskali and the Belarusian Potash Company through which Yara sources potash.
As Belaruskali management continues intimidating workers, we believe that signing a new potash supply contract between Yara and its Belarusian business partner will not be considered as a sincere commitment to the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights as stipulated in the internal Yara regulations.
Since it might have a negative effect on Yara’s business, we would like to ask you to consider pausing or not prolonging the contract with its Belarusian partner at this stage. It is crucial that Yara conditions collaboration with Belaruskali unless the repressions of workers stop. Besides, we would appreciate information on potential revisions of the contract with Belaruskali and the BPC.
According to the information of the Belaruskali striking committee, there are currently 132 people on strike. Currently, they are receiving financial assistance from the Belarusian Solidarity Foundation (BySOL). In December, workers received EUR 80,502 in compensation for joining the striking committee and, as a result, refusing to work unless their demands are met. As more workers joined the strike, they requested EUR 144,682 this month alone.
Therefore, as a follow up to our previous online conversation, we would like to kindly ask you to consider establishing a solidarity fund to support Belaruskali workers on strike.
It might be established by Yara employees who might want to support their Belarusian colleagues who suffer repressions and intimidation. If Yara supports such a fund, we believe it will become a positive example for other Western companies who might join the international solidarity fund with Belarusian workers. It will be also important to consider supporting such a decision with a comprehensive media plan, which we will be happy to help with.