16 October 2019, Wednesday, 4:02
We are in the same boat

Henadz Fiadynich: No Neighboring Country Has Such a Yoke of Belarusian Workers

Henadz Fiadynich: No Neighboring Country Has Such a Yoke of Belarusian Workers
Henadz Fiadynich
Photo by spring96.org

Decree No. 29 must be abolished.

In response to the petition for the abolition of fixed-term employment contracts, the representative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security said that it's impractical. Deputy Minister Ihar Staravoitau notes that fixed-term contracts are aimed at ensuring discipline and order in production, increasing the responsibility of parties, as well as stability promotion of industrial processes, Zautra Tvaye Krainy writes.

But experts believe that this practice, on the contrary, undermines protection of rights of workers and deprives them of certain benefits that are provided by open-ended contracts.

- Initially, when decree No. 29 was adopted, it had its advantages. Thanks to the decree, it was possible to raise salaries of specialists so that they did not leave enterprises," Henadz Fiadynich, advisor of the REP Trade Union recalls.

But gradually norms of the decree became a "short leash" organizations keep their employees on for years. Even after more than five years of work in the company, a person cannot apply for an open-ended employment contract: it is the right of employers to enter into this or that type of contract. And most of them choose a fixed-term contract.

- No neighboring country and CIS countries have such a yoke of Belarusian workers. And when signatures to hold a referendum on this decree were collected eight years ago, even officials supported the idea of abolition of fixed-term contracts," Henadz Fiadynich said.

Experts point out several challenges of fixed-term contracts.

The most common is the stress component for all employees. Every year they face the question of whether they will have their contract renewed or not. About a third of all employment contracts are one-year contracts. And the employer may not extend them without an explanation.

- Fixed-term contracts do not motivate to work. As a slave, a man must obey his employer. If a person's opinion on payment or labour protection or on what is happening at the enterprise or in the state as a whole contradicts the opinion of the head of the enterprise, he or she will be given a work record book without explanation after the expiration of the contract", the representative of the REP Trade Union notes.

Employees with an open-ended contract feel more secure.

- This applies both to the work itself and to life plans, for example, whether to give birth to another child. It's one thing when you know you have a certain safety cushion, and another thing is when you realize that there are not enough jobs in the region and you don't know what to do if your fixed-term contract isn't extended," Maria Akulova, a researcher at the Belarusian Economic Research and Education Center (BEROC), says.

If an employee has found another job, he or she may not resign without the employer's consent before the contract expires. If the employer refuses, the employee has to choose a bypass. For example, to seek violations of the contract by the employer in order to resign under Article 41 of the Labour Code due to the fault of the employer.

- But not every new employer will hire such a specialist with a corresponding entry in the employment record book," Henadz Fiadynich emphasizes.

Fixed-term contracts impose less social responsibility on an employer.

- If an employer had known that after the dismissal of an employee he had to pay a benefit in the amount of, for example, six salaries, he would have probably been more careful in making some decisions, including those on dismissal," Maria Akulova says.

Fixed-term contracts leave workers vulnerable and highly dependent on the will of an employer. The problem aggravates in case of dismissal. Whereas an open-ended contract involves the payment of a benefit, fixed-term contracts allow employers simply not to renew it. And the employee faces not only the issue of job seeking, but also the problem of income for this period, Maria Akulova says.