17 January 2018, Wednesday, 5:47

Belarusian sole traders on strike protesting against Customs Union


Belarusian sole traders have a national strike today.

A decision to hold the strike was taken by the Forum of Sole Traders devoted to the entry into force of the technical regulations of the Customs Union “On safety of light industry”. The event took place in Minsk on June 24.

As charter97.org has learnt, markets in Biaroza, Mozyr, Navapolatsk, Baranavichy, Vaukavysk, Masty, Babruisk, Bykhau, Navagrudak, Zhlobin, Pinsk, Vitebsk, Mahilou and other towns didn't work or worked with a few sellers. Information was received from residents and activists of the small business movement.

According to Radio Svaboda, sole traders didn't start work in Kastiukovichy and Navapolatsk.

Stalls and some trade pavilions were closed at Zhadanovichy market. Some hundreds of sellers gathered near the pavilion “Mir Mody” to discuss their further actions. Zhdanovichy market management is reported to have made a list of sole traders who didn't work today.

Anatoly Shumchanka, the leader of the public association Perspective, and some independent journalists were detained just after the gathering. The journalists were set free later. Shumchanka is still in the Savetski district police department. He is likely to face trial.

Readers of charter97.org report that sole traders in the shopping centres Parking, Atlantic and Zerkalo don't work today.

The markets Paudniovy and Tsetralny in Hrodna joined the strike. Only few people opened stalls today.

All big markets in Homel don't work. Maladzechan also joined the strike, Rehiyanalnaya Hazeta (The Regional Newspaper) writes.

Brest also supported protests of sole traders. The market near the central department store was almost empty. The market director explained that all sellers took a day off. But representatives of sole traders claim that no one took a day off.

Brest's Warsaw market was empty, only a stall with bicycles worked. Yubileyny market joined the strike too. An initiative group tried to gather near the stage at Laguna Market, but security guards ordered them to leave the place. The sides couldn't understand each other and a conflict was near to break out. The sides managed to resolve the situation. Only a few traders, only those not affected by the new technical regulations, worked there. Most of the stalls were closed, Virtual Brest website reports.

About 70% of sole traders didn't work across Belarus today. The data were given at a press conference by Anatoly Zmitrovich, the head of the analytical centre of the Republican Confederation of Small Business, BelaPAN news agency informs.

“It is a one-day preventive strike. Sole traders will not work protesting against the decision of the Customs Union on the technical regulations and its impossible requirements,” leader of the public association Perspective Anatoly Shumchanka told charter97.org.

He says sole traders plan to visit the department of small business of the Ministry of Economy and hand in their demands in the presence of journalists.

“We want department head Aliaksandr Hruzdou to start negotiations on postponing the entry into force of the technical regulations,” Anatoly Shumchanka said.

According to him, sole traders of Minsk, all regional centres and big towns (Barysau, Zhlobin, Pinsk, Slonim, Baranavichy, etc) confirmed they would join the strike.

“Sellers at the market are very excited, because they will not be able to work under the new rules that take force on July 1. The authorities should turn attention to this fact and raise the question of cancelling the technical regulations,” Anatoly Shumchanka said.

He reminded that sole traders were ready to collect signatures for Belarus's withdrawal from the Customs Union.

The technical regulations “On safety of light industry” require documentary proof of the quality of goods including those imported to Belarus from Russia, though it is the common customs area. To receive the necessary documents, one needs to provide documentary evidence of the Russian certification of quality or give a part of goods for a special examination.

The technical regulations were to take force on January 1, 2013, but this decision was postponed due to last year's wave of discontent. The new rules are expected to come into force on Jule 1.