The company will consistently protect the rights of Belarusian miners.
Yara considers the decision of Belaruskali to lift disciplinary sanctions, and take back the dismissed workers as positive, but expects them to further improve the situation for employees, respect workers' rights, strengthen labor safety, and refrain from reprisals against employees. Yara will also continue to interact with all stakeholders on this issue.
This is reported in the press-release, published on the company’s website.
Important to note, Yara is one of the world's largest suppliers of mineral fertilizers and one of the key clients of the Belarusian Potash Company, tut.by writes.
Yara underlines that it has a strong commitment to the universal human rights agenda including the right to strike and backs the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in her condemnation of human rights abuses in Belarus. As a long-term partner to one of Belarus’s biggest companies, Yara has over the past months sought positive change through a close and regular dialogue with the management of BPC and Belaruskali.
-Our approach of seeking influence through continued presence is supported by the Belarus Independent Trade Union (BITU) & The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) and IndustriALL (global federation of trade unions - edit.) as well as the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and Industri Energi, - they note in the company. - Yara continues to engage with a number of stakeholders inside and outside Belarus, including the leader of the Belarusian democratic opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to evaluate how it can have the most positive impact. Yara’s main concern remains the health, safety and well-being of Belaruskali workers.
Yara sees the steps taken by the Belaruskali leadership as positive, but will continue to monitor the situation closely and expects Belaruskali to further improve the situation for its workforce, respect workers’ rights, enhance occupational health and safety, and refrain from repression of employees.
- We will also continue to engage with all key stakeholders, as we continuously evaluate our position, - Yara’s statement sums up.
On January 20, Belaruskali announced its readiness to lift disciplinary sanctions from workers and again accept previously dismissed workers, if they submit appropriate applications. In response, the members of the strike committee recorded a video message in which they did not agree with this wording, since “no one wrote a letter of resignation or committed deliberate absenteeism.” “Our clear firm position sounds like this: to restore those people at the previous workplace, lift all disciplinary sanctions, and immediately begin to fulfill all the requirements of the strike committee. These are an end to violence, the release of political prisoners, and new fair elections,” explained miner Yury Korzun.
How the situation with Belaruskali and Yara developed
The Norwegian company Yara is the world's largest fertilizer producer and one of the main trade partners of Belaruskali. The Belarusian Potash Company traditionally works with it under five-year contracts. For example, under the 2011-2015 agreement, the BPC supplied Yara with over 1 million tonnes of potash fertilizers annually.
In September, Yara representatives came to Minsk for the first time for negotiations with representatives of the Belarusian Potash Company and trade unions. On the eve of this visit, Yara posted a message on its website, expressing concern about the situation in Belarus and the fate of the miners who had been dismissed, or serving sentences.
In December, Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether and several other representatives of the company's management visited Belaruskali. At a closed meeting with the leadership of Belaruskali, they discussed the conditions that must be met in order to comply with the Code of Conduct for Yara Business Partners. On the eve of Svein Tore Holsether's visit, his appeal on the situation in Belarus was published on the Yara website.
“Despite our constant efforts to achieve change through dialogue, we have not seen significant improvements in the situation of Belaruskali employees. We are particularly concerned about the numerous reports of layoffs of workers who peacefully expressed their democratic rights. <...> We should see a significant improvement in conditions and relations with the personnel of Belaruskali, an end to repressions, as well as an improvement in labor safety conditions,” the appeal said.
During a December visit to Belaruskali, Yara representatives also raised issues of labor protection, safety and fatalities at the enterprise. In 2020, there were several similar cases at Belaruskali. In March, the car in which the workers were driving to the site crashed into a wall. The driver died, six people were taken to hospital in serious condition.
According to a source at Belaruskali, the cause of the accident could be a malfunction of the car, complaints about this equipment have been coming for a long time. A 21-year-old worker was fatally injured in June. At the end of October, an employee of Belaruskali was injured and hospitalized with injuries; in early November, another employee died.
Belarusians also actively leave comments on Yara's social networks, asking not to sign a new contract with Belaruskali.