December 05, 2020

Message from Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether on situation in Belarus

The continued suppression of human and workers’ rights in Belarus, as described in the recent report by the OSCE Rapporteur, is unacceptable.

Yara has a strong commitment to the universal human rights agenda, 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 top management of BPC and Belaruskali. With the support of various stakeholders, foremost the Belarus Independent Trade Union (BITU) as well as the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and Industri Energi, and in close dialogue with the Rafto Foundation, Yara’s approach is to exercise influence through its continued presence.  

As part of the dialogue with our partners, we have on numerous occasions clearly expressed our expectation that workers’ rights are respected and have called for improvements in the situation for the Belaruskali workforce and the interaction between the company and the unions. Recent safety incidents on site are also alarming. Together with Yara’s corporate employee representative Geir Sundbø, I personally visited Soligorsk in September to make clear the importance Yara attaches to the ethical conduct of its business partners.    

Despite our continued efforts to bring about change through dialogue, we have not seen significant improvements in the situation for Belaruskali workers. We are particularly concerned by numerous reports of dismissals of workers who have expressed their democratic rights in a peaceful manner. We have also experienced the company’s external communication as incomplete.

The current situation is not tenable for Yara. I have made Yara’s position very clear in conversations with a number of stakeholders, including the Belarus Ambassador to Scandinavia Dmitry Mironchik. We need to see imminent and substantial improvements in the conditions for, and relations with Belaruskali’s workforce, and an end to the use of reprisals as well as improved occupational safety conditions.