Five union leaders from the Glodeni sugar plant workers’ union, Moldova, have been placed under house arrest to prevent them from trying to make sure their members get their wages and benefits.
The five – union chair Vasilii Guleac, vice chair Valentina Semeniuc and activists Anatolie Furtuna, Fiodor Svoevolin and Victor Colibaba – have been charged with criminal offences that could carry prisons sentences of between 3 and 8 years.
The arrests come after more than a year of campaigning by the union to defend jobs and get wage arrears paid after the plant owners, SA Glodeni-Zahar were declared bankrupt.
Workers at Glodeni have not been paid since June 2009. They believe that the 2,500 tons of sugar stored in the plant with the market value of about 35 million MDL (2.8 million USD) is the only hope they have to get their back wages and benefits. They set up a round-the-clock vigil in front of the plant’s gate to make sure the sugar is not removed.
The sugar has been impounded until the court takes a decision on the workers’ payments. However, the bankruptcy administrator of SA Glodeni-Zahar has on several occasions tried with the help of hired guards to load trucks and remove the sugar from the plant. By blocking the gate with their cars the workers were able to ensure the trucks left empty every time.
Now the administrator has retaliated by filing a lawsuit against the trade union activists and leaders to claim 228,020 MDL (18,500 USD) to cover the costs of the unused trucks.
Union vice-chair Valentina Semenyuk commented, “We demand our wages and other benefits are paid, that our jobs are protected and all charges against our members be dropped. Those who are under house arrest should be freed. We believe that the Moldova government and authorities should intervene in the situation to solve the conflict in the spirit of justice and law.
“We call on our sisters and brothers in the labour movement to support our struggle and to help us to put pressure on the Moldova government”.