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"Every Day and to the End": How the Salihorsk Miners Go on Strike

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"Every Day and to the End": How the Salihorsk Miners Go on Strike
PHOTO: NAVINY.BY

The whole country is now looking at the workers of Belaruskalij.

Despite the tough pressure from the administration of Belaruskalij, the Salihorsk miners continue an indefinite strike. They are ready for the least - a hunger strike.

Naviny.by visited Salihorsk and learned about the miners' strike.

In the morning, the central square of Salihorsk is crowded. The miners have gathered here. Since August 17, they have declared an indefinite strike.

Employees of "Belaruskalij" demand to recognize the results of the presidential elections as invalid, to bring to justice Aliaksandr Lukashenka and the head of the Central Election Commission Lidia Yarmoshyna for crimes against the people and to release all political prisoners and participants in peaceful protests.

A strike committee was created at the enterprise. According to the strike committee, more than four thousand people signed up for the strike. More than 15 thousand people work at Belaruskalij. The active part of the strikers does not go to work. They gather every day in the city center.

"I have three children, now my wife is pregnant with the fourth, but I am going to the end. Our entire brigade (12 people) is on strike. The neighboring brigade is also here. I am against this regime. We are tired of being afraid," said Vadzim Shchytkavec, a machinist from the fourth mining department.

Most of the potash workers went to work because they need to "feed their families and pay loans." Employees of the first mining department said that, at their workplaces, they are holding an Italian strike - either they work very slowly or do not work at all.

According to the strike committee, on the morning of August 20, only one mine out of six was not working, the rest were, to one degree or another, given ore to the surface. All enrichment factories worked - there are four of them at the enterprise.

The miners' strike is taking place under unprecedented pressure from the enterprise administration. Workers are threatened with forfeiture of bonuses, layoffs, and even criminal liability.

On the eve, Prime Minister Raman Halauchenka said that the obstacle to the work of the enterprise is direct harm to the production process. According to him, if the enterprise incurs losses, then the people who caused the harm will be liable according to the law.

"The management of the enterprise conducted good brainwashing among the strikers. In particular, the general director [Ivan Halavaty] came to the sites and, through moral pressure, as well as disinformation, tried to convince the foremen of the mining and tunneling complexes to start work," said the strike committee press attaché Hleb Sandros. - In particular, he assured that the site on which he is located is the only one that is on strike. Naturally, workers began to hesitate and doubt. At the moment, some of them are demoralized, and the morale of some has dropped. This was the calculation. But we do not intend to retreat, because there is nowhere. "

Salihorsk miners have experience of a successful strike. It took place in the spring of 1992. Then the miners demanded higher wages. The strike lasted 44 days. The workers of "Belaruskalij" stopped their work, the ore was not brought to the surface. The miners blocked the transport with products to enforce their demands. More than a dozen employees were starving right in the lobby of the enterprise administration.

"Then there were purely economic demands. Our salaries have been increased 3.2 times. Then everything worked out for us," said the then chairman of the strike committee Mikalai Zimin, who had worked at Belaruskalij for 35 years.

Now the Belarusian authorities are trying to convince the population that the striking miners are acting outside the legal framework. They say that according to the law, consent to the strike must be given by half of the work collective, and only economic, not political demands can be put forward.

"Now is the most important moment in our life. They scare us, they talk about some kind of illegal strike. But one man crossed the line of the law when he started shooting at us in the streets. So what kind of legality can we talk about now ?! We want them to answer for killing people. We are supported by our fellow workers around the world. They are ready to help us in any way they want - even to the point of getting on the rails so as not to let the products go. Now only the most important thing remains - every day until the end!" - said at the rally the chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union Maxim Pazniakou, who came to support the striking miners.

In Salihorsk, they understand the burden of responsibility - the whole country looks at them. The striking miners are ready to go to the last resort and begin a hunger strike.

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