17 January 2018, Wednesday, 1:54

”Serfdom” can be introduced on any enterprise


None sector of industry can feel safe from introduction of compulsory labour.

Alyaksandr Yarashuk, the head of the Belarusian Congress of Independent Trade Unions, spoke with Euroradio about consequences of Lukashenka's decree No. 9.

What rights of workers does the decree violate?

Firstly, the decree introduces compulsory work. Only one country in the world, Myanmar, had enforced work. People were even chained to their workplace. We have other chains – legal ones. Elements of compulsory labour were noticed in Decree No. 29, when workers were obliged to sign employment agreements. Decree No. 9 in fact violates the constitution of the country, which guarantees freedom to employment, dismissal and the right to choose a job; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees there rights, was violated; Convention No. 105 of the International Labour Organisation on abolition of forced labour, which was ratified by our country and Convention No. 122 on employment, which also was also ratified by Belarus. These violations cannot be called otherwise than defiance to the international community.

Will Europe respond to Decree No. 9 with sanctions?

The International Labour Organisation has the most effective leverage today that can be applied to the Belarusian government. It is only due to the principled position of the International Labour Organisation in relation to the rights of members of the independent trade union and workers' rights in general that the European Union cancelled trade preferences for Belarus in 2007. I met with ILO head Guy Ryder and we discussed the situation of workers of wood processing plants. We are concerned about the situation. I can ensure you that the ILO will turn attention to the situation. As for particular measures, I'd prefer not to make forecasts. I'd like to remind that the ILO once appealed to the international community asking to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar as a response to forced labour. It was just one time for 93 years of the history of the organisation. Myanmar had to take steps to restore workers' rights and political liberalisation started in the country.

Is the wood processing sector so important for the state that Lukashenka decided to make this step? Can we expect a similar decree to be released in relation to workers of other sectors of industry?

Compulsory work can be introduced on any enterprise in any sector.