25 April 2019, Thursday, 17:54
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Belarus Wants to Legalize Serfdom

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Cartoon: caricatura.ru

There are some specific "amendments" to the Labour Code.

In autumn Belarus may adopt the new Labour Code, which includes new decrees of Lukashenka No.5 and No.29.

The Chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) Mikalai Zimin believes it will be "the worst Labour Code in the civilized world".

What is the sense of these amendments? Deputy Chairman of the BITU Yury Shvets answers questions of Charter97.org:

- The Labour Code of Belarus does not need any "amendments". On the contrary, the authorities have to obey it.

In reality, we can observe the opposite: instead of obeying the labour legislation, the state represented by the ruler come up with new substatutory documents. To make them legal, "deputies" are subject to their adoption.

All these decrees, amendments, regulations did not contribute to welfare of the Belarusians - only restrictions and tightenings. Now all this "paper waste" is added to the Labour Code. What kind of "Code" will it be? I believe it is not normal. We can observe the set of laws turning into absurd.

- Tell us in details about Lukashenka's decrees which are about to be added to the Labour Code. What is the main threat they pose?

- Decree No. 29 is about labour contracts. Decree No. 5 regards labour discipline. And it involves the opinion of one person.

These disciplines are already well described in the Code. There is no need in Lukashenka's decree.

Moreover, these "amendments" will only worsen the situation. If Decree No. 29 is added to the Code, in fact, it will abolish all versions of labour contracts except short-term contracts which have become the curse for our people. Open-ended employment contracts will be abolished in practice.

The same regards Decree No. 5. The discipline issue is thoroughly described in the Labour Code and does not require any amendments. You just need to practice it!

There is one more significant moment about Decree No. 5. It may deprive a person of all benefits and bonuses for a year. It's nonsense! A minor disobedience is punished so severely. . In fact, as soon as these amendments are adopted, it will mean legalized work for free during a year.

What does it mean? No country has such practice. What if this person becomes a hero in a month? But he is "suffering" a one-year sanction.

In his all speeches Lukashenka tells about a "social state" and "the best people in the world". In reality, labour norms are tightened. It is hard to explain to ordinary people.

- Can it be said that "deputies" are going to legalize compulsory labour in Belarus?

- I would not say that these "amendments" legalize" serfdom. Short-term contracts are the core of the system of Belarus. Those working under contracts have neither labour nor civil rights.

As of today, workers are completely dependent on new landlords. It's serfdom of its true nature. A worker has no right to resist an employer; he is constantly shaken down with this contract.

Let's turn back to notorious Decree No. 5: in practice, an employee can be deprived of all benefits for one year not only for a minor violation, but by imaginary reasons, because the membership "does not like "you. During the whole year a person has to do the same without a significant part of benefits. That is, some part of his time a person has to work for free.

Labour should contribute to physical and spiritual growth. Once Darvin told about the part played by labour in the transition from Ape to Man. Now the approach of the Belarusian authorities works on the contrary: labour turns people into apes.

- The BITU is the largest non-governmental trade union in Belarus. Do you have representatives at such weighty enterprises like Belaruskali, Naftan, Grodno Azot, Belshina? What sentiments do workers experience there? Are they ready to fight for their rights?

- I've been working for many years at the Mozyr refinery and every day see how people are resented. I would like to see more: not only resentment but readiness for organized actions.

- "Organized activity proved its efficiency last year, when the authorities tried to adopt the law on "parasites", Mikalai Zimin stated. - What do you think about it?

- I participated in protests caused by the decree on "parasites" in 2017. Unfortunately, not all who could make a difference took to the streets. It was enough only to freeze the decree, but not to make some greater changes.

People need to realize that they are responsible for the situation. And as soon as more than 3% of people take to the streets, changes will become possible.

Egregious examples happen to Belarusians every day. The reality is disastrous. We observe lawlessness, dismissals, rudeness. Only few people are now ready to take a stand. Thank God that they exist.

For 80 years people did not believe that the Soviet Union would collapse. And it took only several days. For hundreds years people did not believe the Russian Empire could collapse. Everything is possible.

I hope our people have enough will to make peaceful changes. So that it was a civilized way. After all, we have no "Iron Curtain". The world is open. We can learn something from our neighbours in Europe. We should learn something spiritual, work out how to think European.