20 March 2019, Wednesday, 11:15
A Challenge for Everyone
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‘Lukashenka’s Officials Need To Be Put On Sack Of Potatoes Per Month’

What is going on with salaries and allowances in Belarus?

The average unemployment benefit in Belarus today is about BYN 27 per month.

The food basket for this money will be more than scant: for example, a sack of potatoes (30 kg), a bottle of sunflower oil, 5 packs of oatmeal and a bag of skim milk.

Can a person live on such a “special chop-chop”? Leader of the REP trade union Henadz Fiadynich comments on the situation with the incomes of the unemployed and working Belarusians for the website Charter97.org:

- I would like those officials of Lukashenka, who developed and signed documents on the amount of unemployment benefits in Belarus, to receive these 27 rubles a month, this sack of potatoes with sunflower oil instead of their salaries.

This is a mockery of people. If our leadership believes that it rules according to the principles of a civilized country, then this is a bhuge mistake. In all normal countries around us, unemployment benefits are at least 50% (or even more) of the average earnings at the last place of work. There are government retraining programs with guaranteed employment and decent wages, which is not the case in Belarus today.

And in this regard, our authorities are talking about some kind of “parasites,” when people ignore the labor exchange, because public works for 27 rubles is just a mockery.

What is being done in Belarus in relation to the unemployed is not even subject to any criticism. This should not be the default.

- Do working Belarusians live much better?

- What is offered under the guise of jobs is difficult to call a job, really. Nevertheless, people have to work - especially those who took loans. Quite a large part of the population took loans some 3-4 years ago. These people found themselves in the most difficult situation: banks really can take away their apartments, cars and other property.

There are no normal wages and jobs where a person could feel more or less safe in the regional centers of Belarus today. What kind of salary is 300 rubles per month? Is this not a mockery of a person? Or 400 rubles per month for a 12-hour working day (and we are recording these cases). What is this?

Either the officials instill in the field, fearing to report to the boss about the real situation with salaries, or they know everything at the top, but do not want to admit their failure. The facts are: there are no decent jobs in Belarus now to employ those who want to work. And the authorities must recognize this.

- Back in 2015, then Minister of Labor Marjana Shchotkina stated that unemployment benefit should not be raised, as “no one will starve to death”. Four years have passed, Shchotkina is no longer the Minister of Labor, but the benefit remains close to nothing. Why don't the authorities increase its size?

- Because we ourselves allow them to do this. There are two methods to make salaries and benefits grow: labor and civil solidarity. It must be brought up by the majority of citizens.

If this had happened, then there would be no Lukashenka and his government, but there would be laws that work for the good of the people.

In our country, officials and the government live by their unwritten laws, and the people survive by theirs. This is blasphemy - to say that “no one will starve to death”. None of you, officials, work for 300-400 rubles, and no one lives for a pension of 200-250 Belarusian rubles. As state officials, you get a pension of BYN 800-900 rubles. And your attitude towards the citizens of Belarus will turn against you. People are turning against you more and more.

- What does the REP trade union offer to protect the rights of Belarusians who have lost their jobs?

- We have some groundwork on how to achieve salaries and unemployment benefits comparable to those of developed neighbors. We have long studied the scheme of social protection and payroll in Germany, Scandinavia, the Baltic countries.

But we do not have a legislative initiative, we cannot implement these proposals. For them to gain weight, the support of the civil society and the joint struggle for change in the country is needed.

And the need for change is long overdue. We have a lot of questions from the Belarusians dissatisfied with the situation in the country: this is the loss of pensions due to the neglect of maternity leave and military service, and the new decree on “parasites”, and rising unemployment ...

But as long as Belarusians do not see a citizen in themselves and do not learn how to fight for their rights, they will not begin to think that they will leave to their children and grandchildren - nothing in this country will change for the better. Nothing happens by itself. For a decent life you need to fight - following the example of our neighbors.

- Lukashenka in March 2017 promised to employ all Belarusians. How do you assess such statements of the ruler amid the growth of even official unemployment?

- You need to keep track of your words and promises. What does it mean - “to employ?” According to the “parasite” commissions, we now have about half a million unemployed. Does Lukashenka has 500 thousand decent jobs today?

You can send five, or even ten million people to pick stones in a field. But to provide an 8-hour working day with decent wages — he is uncapable of this.

Therefore, they are already beginning to dodge: at first they talked about “500 each” in dollars, now - in Belarusian rubles. But the worst thing is that no one is telling the people the truth. The government speaks through the prism of the screen, declaring numbers that have nothing to do with the reality and are prepared in advance. Therefore, the people’s distrust of power is very high - and they know it above.

Everyone can make empty statements. This does not mean that he is able to lead the country to decent wage rates. And the flow of people who travel to work in neighboring countries does not fall, but only grows. This shows that today the economy of Belarus is very, very sick.