16 January 2018, Tuesday, 10:43

Belarus reanimates war laws of Soviet times

“No idle time any more”: Lukashenka wants people to work like in wartime.

Decree No. 9, which was released in early December, significantly restricted the rights of employees to terminate employment contracts with the employer. Director of YurZnak law firm Maksim Znak says the decree in fact forbids employees to quit on their will.

”Earlier, an employee could apply to a court demanding to terminate the employment contract if the labour legislation was violated, for example, wages were not paid. With Decree No. 9, the employee can appeal to the head of the regional executive committee or the Minsk city executive committee against employer's refusal to cancel the employment contract. Time will show if the chairman of the regional executive committee will really approve dismissals of employees,” Maksim Znak says.

Another obstacle for employees to resign is  “monthly bonuses” ( in addition to salaries) that the employee must return within a month in case he or she is dismissed by the employer.

“The bonuses are a legal tool to tie the employee to the employer. Forced labour is forbidden by the Constitution. It is impossible to exercise it legally. That's why the tool that economically 'ties' the employee to the employee has appeared,” Maksim Znak says.

The expert thinks it's hard yet to say whether Decree No. 9 will be applied to the fields other than wood processing. “It's hard to forecast now. But the very precedent of introducing such instruments to keep employees gives reasons to worry,” Maksim Znak says.

Decree No. 9 (especially taking into account statements about the necessity to work like in wartime) resembles the decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council of June 26, 1940 “On the Transfer to the Eight-Hour Working Day, the Seven-day Work Week, and on the Prohibition of Unauthorized Departure by Labourers and Office Workers from Factories and Offices”. The document prohibited employees to leave enterprises. Unauthorised dismissals were punished by jail sentences.

In Belarus, “unauthorised departure” will be punished by compulsory labour. Executives are under threat of being thrown into prison: Alyaksandr Lukashenka outlined propects on Monday as he appointed new Kamvol factory director. “If you fail, I'll send you to jail,” the Belarusian leader said to the new director. The instruments of coercion to be used in Belarus are similar to those used in the Soviet Union in wartime.

It's possible that new forms of employment relations, which were introduced on certain state-run enteritises, will be applied to other sectors of economy, all the more 70% of the Belarusian economy (as estimated by the Ministry of Economy and the World Bank) are controlled by the state sector. From this point of view, there are plenty of possibilities to reform employment relations in the country.

The other matter is that having signed the documents of the Common Economic Space, Belarus agreed on free movement of labour force and assets inside the integration organisation. At the same time, attaching employees to enterprises doesn't comply with the rules of the Common Economic Space. By the way, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said last week he was already rebuked for signing Decree No. by everyone “from America to Russia”.