26 May 2020, Tuesday, 15:08
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Trade Unions Call On ILO To Put Pressure On Belarusian Government

Trade Unions Call On ILO To Put Pressure On Belarusian Government

The country's labor code seems likely to become the worst in the world soon.

The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU) calls on the Committee on the Application of International Labor Organization’s (ILO) standards to use every opportunity to force Belarus to respect the rights of workers and trade unions. This was stated by the Vice-Chairman of the BCDTU Siarhei Antusevich, as he spoke at the 108th session of the International Labor Conference in Geneva (Switzerland) on June 15.

Today, the Committee on the Application of ILO Standards is considering the individual issue of Belarus’s compliance with Convention # 29 on the prohibition of the use of forced labor.

Antusevich participates in this event as a delegate to the International Labor Confederation, of which the BCDTU is a member. He provided the BelaPAN news agency with the text of his speech.

“The situation with labor rights in the Republic of Belarus, in our opinion, continues to remain difficult,” the trade union leader said. “The sphere of labor relations is not governed by the Labor Code, but by presidential decrees and ordinances. By one of the decrees, all workers are transferred to fixed-term labor contracts. Thus, this civilized form of hiring has been transformed into a form of forced labor due to excessive proliferation, since workers cannot resign on their own initiative. And Belarus has become a country of temporary employment.”

“Another decree introduced a system of excessive punishments and fines imposed on employees, which demonstrates the signs of forced labor. For various violations of labor, production and performance discipline, workers can be deprived of up to three-quarters of their wages, which remains one of the lowest in Europe even without this. The decree on the so-called parasites declares labor, contrary to the Constitution, as not a right, but an obligation of the citizens, non-working citizens are discriminated against and must pay utilities at increased tariffs,” added the trade union leader.

According to him, the country also continues to practice forced labor “in the system of medical and labor dispensaries where alcoholics are placed.” The name of these institutions, he said, “should not be misleading, since they do not provide for any medical therapy.”

“The system of institutions is, in fact, a continuation of the traditions of the totalitarian regimes of the 1930s of the last century, of hard forced labor of citizens with alcoholism,” he explained.

A similar principle of violence against citizens, said Antusevich, laid the foundation for “forced labor of parents, whose children were withdrawn from their families.” “The adopted law discredits the very concept of labor, since it is used forcibly as a means of re-educating asocial elements,” the BCDTU Vice-Chairman is convinced.

“Despite the fact that Belarus for the third time in the last four years reports at meetings of the Committee on the implementation of the ILO Convention #29, the government continues to use tools of forced labor,” the trade union leader said. “Moreover, the Parliament in the first reading has already adopted a law on the implementation of decrees on the transfer of all workers to fixed-term labor contracts, defined excessive punishments and fines imposed on workers, in the Labor Code. This is another challenge to the principles and values of the ILO, and the country's Labor Code seems likely to become the worst in the world soon.”

“We urge the Committee to use all possibilities to force the Belarusian government to abandon the long-term practice of violating the rights of workers and trade unions, citizens, ignoring ratified ILO Conventions, including Convention # 29, and the international labor standards,” concluded Antusevich.

The session of the International Labor Conference is held from 10 to 21 June. On the first day of the conference, Belarus was included in the circle of 24 countries where the situation with the rights of workers requires individual consideration.

Even before the current session of the conference, the Government of Belarus submitted to the Committee on the Application of Standards the report on the implementation of Convention # 29. This document was published on the ILO website. It follows from it that Belarus “firmly and consistently supports the prohibition and eradication of forced labor”. This postulate is enshrined “in the most important legislative acts of the country” - the Constitution and the Labor Code.

According to the Belarusian side, Lukashenka’s decree № 3 of April 2, 2015 “On facilitating employment of the population” and Law # 104-З of January 4, 2010 “On the procedure and conditions for sending people to health-care clinics and the terms of their stay” which were previously referred to by the ILO bodies, “do not contradict the provisions of Convention # 29”. These documents “are aimed at solving socially significant tasks - promoting employment of the population and combating drunkenness and drug addiction.” The approaches defined in these documents “correspond to the norms of justice and are socially justified,” the government asserts.