August 17, 2020, 09:03, TUT.BY

On Friday, employees of Belaruskali informed that if their requirements were not met, they would stop working on Monday morning. They insist on new elections, release of all political prisoners and resignation of those who committed violence in the country. Today they’ve announced that they are stopping the plant.

Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

At 8 am, the entrance to the second mine administration is crowded. The miners are discussing emotionally why they’ve decided to take such step.

“We want to be in solidarity with the whole country. Our demands are not being met, that is why we are on strike. Our strike will last as long as the situation remains the same”, the men explain.

 Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

This strike is not the first one in the history of Belaruskali. Men recall how they went through this in the late 80s and early 90s. 

“It was a long time ago,” they say. 

“Some officials say if you stop the plant, people will lose their wages. Doesn’t that stop you?” asks TUT.BY. 

“We don’t have much to lose. Lukashenka will lose,” one answers. 

And then his colleague continues: “Losing the freedom of the whole country is more expensive. One can get the job back.” 

The workers say that they understand what the strike will lead to but there is no other way out.

“We want to resolve the situation peacefully and we stand for peace. To stop such a company as ours is a serious blow to the economy. Doctors and teachers need get their salaries, and the budget needs to be replenished. We understand this perfectly well, but there is no other way to influence the authorities,” with these words the employees of Belaruskali enter the building of the second mining administration.

 Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

Among the workers who came to the strike meeting were those who worked the night shift, rested for a couple of hours and went back to work after the meeting, and those who are officially on vacation.

The meeting with the management lasted half an hour, employees were encouraged to write their requirements but not to stop production.

“There is no other way out! We are deprived of our vote, elections, and then they began to kill our children! Our salary pays for riot police bullets!” shouted employees of Belaruskali.

Almost unanimously, they voted for the strike. They are in the process of forming strike committees, and officially, through the trade union, are preparing to notify the management about stopping the plant.

Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

The inner courtyard is full of discussions. Here they are asking the same question: why, after all the abuse of the detainees, the Minister of Internal Affairs Yuri Karaev did not resign?

“His place should be taken by another, but nothing of the kind is happening. Thousands of people go out to the streets, and the internal affairs bodies in Brest and Vitebsk began somehow to talk to the people, to try to explain something. But it is impossible to get rid of the arbitrariness that swept across the country,” the miners are indignant.

Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

“Who do you think should resign now?” TUT.BY is interested.

“Everyone! Starting from Lukashenka and ending with the city mayors, and the whole riot police should be under lock and key! They began to kill us as a nation since spring, and now they are arresting us without reasons.  It is dangerous to go back home at midnight after work. My wife watched how a man was beaten to a pulp in the courtyard of a house in the residential area and then loaded onto a bus and taken away, and there are a lot of such stories.”

“And the Attorney General did not comment on it at all!”

Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

This morning, the steps of the second mine department became an impromptu stage. The director of the second mining department Viktor Getmanov, as well as a former deputy, the chairman of the trade union organization of  Belaruskali of Belkhimprofsoyuz Andrei Rybak are trying to speak. The workers were reluctant to let the latter talk.

“Did you want me to speak?” he addresses the crowd, there are 100-150 people in the courtyard. 

“No!” the crowd chants. “We wanted to hear from you a week ago.” 

Viktor Getmanov calls his subordinates „muzhiki”, they have no complaints about Getmanov, who has been working here for 37 years. But once the crowd agrees, a strike is the only way out of the situation.

“We can keep shouting here, be indignant, talk a lot, but I can not promise you now that Lukashenka will leave tomorrow. I can not promise that they will bring here policemen who beat innocent people. (…). We must solve everything in an organized and civilized manner; stopping the plant is a big problem for everyone,” says Viktor Getmanov.

“Victor Nikolaevich, with all due respect – no!” The men shout. “He [Lukashenka] must go!”

Dmitry Brushko / TUT.BY

Alexander Mishuk, the deputy chairman of independent trade unions, is listening to the speech of the leader together with everyone. Judging by the way the miners react, he is a well-known person:

“Sasha, speak!”

And he takes the floor.

“Historical events are taking place in our country. Our production is important for the whole country, but the decision to strike is a consequence; it was not us who organized it,” these words evoke a storm of applause. “The first thing we saw was election fraud. We were deprived of our voice. Guys, you have seen many of your acquaintances to be beaten and crippled. All we wanted was our votes back. We didn’t want bloodshed. None of us walked with knives or sticks; we walked calmly in our city. What happened next was a complete mess. I propose to form strike committees, work out demands and hand them over to our director. Who agrees?”

And almost everyone raised their hand up.

As a reminder, on Friday, August 14, spontaneous protest actions were held in Soligorsk, and in the evening the management of the enterprise met with the employees of Belaruskali. At the meeting, people put forward the following demands: to release Soligorsk from the special task force due to the latter having lost the confidence of people and to petition for the disbanding of the riot police OMON with the deprivation of military ranks for employees without the right to reinstate them in service in the Ministry of Internal Affairs; to bring to justice those who exceeded their powers during and after the election campaign and who did not fulfill their duties in good faith in accordance with the legislation of Belarus; to declare the elections invalid and to hold new elections with a new CEC and the involvement of independent observers. People have promised to suspend production indefinitely if these requirements are not met.