19 September 2020, 12:42 | Radio Svaboda
Yara CEO Mr. Svein Tore Holsether took part in the conversation, which lasted about 40 minutes, said co-chair of the strike committee Anatoly Bokun.
“We handed over a list of repressed employees, those fired during the strike, those who have been arrested and detained or deprived of their bonuses. We were directly asked: do we want the Norwegian company to leave the Belarusian market altogether? We replied that this decision is up to them to make, but since we are in favour of an open dialogue between the strikers and the employer, we do hope that Yara will mediate and facilitate this dialogue,” Anatoly Bokun commented on the meeting with Yara representatives.
A week ago, Anatoly Bokun was still serving a 15-day administrative detention for participating in the protests.
According to Mr. Bokun, on 17 September, the strike committee members met with a delegation from the Norwegian company Yara, which is one of the buyers of Belaruskali mineral fertilizers. The conversation with the company’s CEO, Svein Tore Holsether, and other delegation members lasted about 40 minutes.
“The Norwegians said that Yara is genuinely concerned about reports of workers’ rights violations at Belaruskali and asked us to clarify what has been happening. We explained how we see the situation and handed over a list of repressed employees, those fired during the strike, those who have been arrested and detained or deprived of their bonuses,” said Anatoly Bokun.
According to the co-chairman of the Belaruskali strike committee, the Norwegian delegation asked how they could help to improve the situation.
“As a result, we agreed that they will do their best to mediate and facilitate the dialogue between the workers and the employer,” informed Anatoly Bokun. The strikers believe that such dialogue will continue.
“I should add that at the end of the conversation, we were directly asked: do we want the Norwegian company to leave the Belarusian market altogether? We replied that this decision is up to them to make, but since we are in favour of an open dialogue between the strikers and the employer, we do hope that Yara will mediate and facilitate this dialogue.”
The meeting with the Yara delegation was also attended by representatives of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union, the primary organization which operates at Belaruskali, Anatoly Bokun said. In the first half of the day, according to Mr. Bokun, the Norwegian delegation met with General Director of Belaruskali Ivan Galavaty and the State Trade Union management.
Belaruskali has not commented on the Yara meeting. The company’s official website has not mentioned it either.
Yara is the largest buyer of Belarusian potash in Norway. Earlier, Yara issued a statement condemning human rights violations in Belarus.
“We have a clear expectation that our business partners adhere to our ethical principles and that they comply with laws and regulations, as well as internationally recognized standards for human rights, employee rights and ethical business conduct,” the statement said.
On 17-18 August, a strike began at Belaruskali, with the workers demanding Alexander Lukashenko’s resignation and new elections. According to the strike committee, up to 7,000 employees took part in the strike. However, the company’s administration claimed there were only about 800 participants.
The Belaruskali strike committee states that up to 20 workers are on strike and refusing to attend work, and many others are keeping to the work-to-rule, or Italian strike, tactic.