However Belarusians have a choice.
The Belarusian "Parliament" has immediately burst with an idea to increase the retirement age following the example of Russia.
What will happen if the retirement age for men is increased once again? Charter97.org contacted Zinaida Mikhnyuk, the representative of the Brest regional independent Trade Union of Radio and Electronic Industry (REP), to ask these questions:
- Once while commenting on a possible retirement age increase for women head of our Trade Union Henadz Fiadynich said: "Hands off our women. You'd better make pensions of officials equal to these of ordinary citizens. Then much money is found." Now I'd like to say on behalf of Belarusian women: "Hands off our men!"
Speaking frankly, the pension issue is the topic I care about. I have recently retired and I receive now the pension of 200 rubles ($100). People wonder how I'm going to live on this pension. I'm kidding that my husband is young, we are of the same age, and he has to work for other five years. You know, when the retirement age was increased by three years, he was really upset. In general, every family does its best to survive without any hope for the state. It's about the Belarusian pension.
I'd like to note that I have only 39 years of working experience with my years for education and maternity leave. As a result, I have only 27 years of working experience and I hate receiving such pennies. How can I live on this sum?
If we talk about Belarusian men-pensioners, most of them know that they will pass away before the retirement age. For example, a man has recently asked us for help; he believes that the retirement age increase is not justified. He was furious about it, and there are lots of these people.
- What will happen to men working at hazardous enterprises in case of other retirement age increase?
- I'm the member of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions. In Salihorsk women of the Independent Trade Union calculated how much time miners spent on pension when the pension age had been increased. Due to hazardous working conditions they retire 5 years earlier. Nevertheless, activists found out that miner lived 3-4 or maximum 5 years after the retirement. It turns out that even they will die at a work place.
In general, I'd like to say that the retirement age issue is acute at enterprises with hazardous working conditions. It's not a secret that only few live until the retirement age. It seems that such an increase conducted by the authorities is intentional, so that Belarusians could not reach the retirement age. And it's completely unfair that after death of a pensioner the state captures this money!
Life expectancy of men and women differs. But I'd like to thank men who do not bother about equating of the retirement age. I have no such people among my acquaintances. Belarusians believe that women deserve to retire earlier.
- Why do Trade Unions which receive contributions from workers ignore the situation in the country?
- When people ask the REP Trade Union for help and it turns out that they are members of officials Trade Unions, we wonder why they do not go there. A worker once said to me that a representative of the official Trade Union told him openly: "If I take a stand for you now, I will be the first with not extended contract."
It means that the contract system influences everyone. The Federation of Trade Unions is only a cultural sector under the administration. They can arrange a party, congratulate someone or carry out a sport event. They can't organize a picket or rally to protect workers.
When on October 7 I was allowed to hold a picket for a decent work in Brest, workers offered me to invite my "colleagues" from the regional council. As a result, they did not come, unlike workers who understood that they were responsible for their lives.
By the way, there is a favorite poster in Brest: "European prices call for European salaries". It is hushed up that our prices do not comply with our salaries.
The authorities treat us like fools. No matter how strong the dictatorship is, many people are aware of the life in the EU.
- Why is men mortality so high in Belarus?
- I think the fact that our health care system ignores disease prevention, and treat only cerebral accidents and heart attacks which are also caused by the contract system is indicative.
I'm convinced that employment contracts should be signed at least for 3-5 years, but employers do not care. They sign only one-year contract to make a person feel nervous. Doesn't it affect the health state? Every year a man thinks whether his contract is extended or not. One can become a "parasite" all of a sudden. My acquaintance once said "the slavery is not abolished but changed".
- According to statistics, the major part of the unemployed is men. Men at the age of 60-74 and 40-44 years are at the top of the list. Does it mean that even able-bodied Belarusians fail with new jobs? What will happen in case of the retirement age increase?
- It's outrageous that men of 40 or 60 years old are not popular among employers. If the retirement age is increased, other spurts of unemployment will occur. I shudder to think of the fate of these people. Where should they go?
By the way, every person has a choice - either to resent or to be passive. Although, at any moment, event the most tolerant person may boil over and rise. Employed people in Belarus feel worse than the unemployed abroad.
I stress once again, every person makes decisions. People who rose from their knees come to our Trade Union. It'd like to point out that we are waiting on every person who wants to fight decent labour conditions.
Independent Trade Unions are one of elements that form the society and democratic state. When workers choose a Trade Union, they should know that only the organization which can give them a helping hand may receive contributions. it does not make any sense to invest in "pocket" Trade Unions. As they say, "the hardest thing is to oppress the slave living inside". As soon as people come up with it, the situation will change in the country.
To end up our conversation on a positive note, I'd like to wish our men good health.