Belarus wants to legalize serfdom.
Lukashenka signed the amended Labour Code adopted by both "houses". What changes the new code brings when it comes into force? Charter97.org asked Henadz Fiadynich, independent trade union's leader, to comment on the amendments.
- Lukashenka signed the new Labour Code, which is already called the worst in the world. Do you agree with this?
- If we talk about the contract system - yes, it can be considered the worst.
- Let's take a look at the changes. One of them is the ability of an employer to "transfer" an employee to another employer. What will this practice lead to?
- We can say that they want to legalize serfdom. The government invokes the fact that if your employer has no job, he can redirect you to another job for up to six months. At that, neither working conditions nor salary level is specified.
Ideally, one comes to an employer, sign a contract. If one meets the contract, but an employer has no job to do, one should be paid two average salaries and offered to start looking for another job. The new amendments do not stipulate it.
It means the transfer of a slave to another owner. After all, an employee faces a choice: either dismissal or a new employer. And why, for example, should a person travel 10-20 kilometers to a new place of work?
The Labour Code should stipulate - if there is no job, an employer must pay two average salaries and a person is dismissed for breach of contract by the employer. Such a norm simply does not exist.
- Can it be said that the new Labour Code preserves the existing contract system in Belarus?
- Yes. The authorities invoke the fact that now contracts can be concluded for five years. But it's evil. Look at the statistics, many people have short-term contracts! Listen, no one has excluded open-ended contracts from the Labour Code. They can be signed.
If a person has worked for a year, an unlimited working contract is required. What do we get instead? Inequality! An employee can be informed about the dismissal 30 days in advance. The law has no retroactive effect. If you have found another job during this time, there is no chance to quit. An employer will decide.
The rights of an employer are not equal to those of an employee. If a person worked under an open-ended employment contract, he or she could inform about resignation one month in advance.
- Are the Belarusians deprived of the right to resign for a personal reason?
- Yes. At best, one can agree on dismissal by agreement of the parties. Employees have to solve problems in court. If the court obliges to dismiss an employee, he is dismissed under the article "breach of the contract by the employer" and it is included in the employment record book. And the new employer sees that the employee is competent, can stand up for himself and does not hire him.
- The authorities have legalized "part-time work during vacation". Do they officially recognize one job is not enough to support yourself?
- Earlier, people also worked part-time during vacations. But here officials legalize it and make it clear that the best vacation is to change the place of work for Belarusians. And the question is, when should people relax? Belarusians work part-time because they have no other options. Someone has credits to pay, someone has lent money, someone is short of money.
Why can't a Belarusian earn at the main place of work as much as he needs for a decent life? A man of labour should be able to save money and go somewhere with his family to relax. In a country house, in the city, in Poland, in Egypt, in Turkey - anywhere. Few people here think about the people. So let's be honest and write not "Belarus is a country for life", but "Belarus is a country for low-paid jobs." It will be fair.
Instead, we have a new "super task" - "tolerable wages". This system, which has been discrediting itself for 25 years, is not trustworthy. The Belarusian people do not believe that the state can provide them with a decent job. Not with these handouts of $150-200, but with a decent salary.
First, we were promised $500, then 1000 rubles, and the other day Lukashenka mentions "tolerable wages", because they can't provide us with a decent salary. What have you been doing for 25 years?
- When one reads the amendments to the Labour Code, the word "employer" is the most common one. Is there no place for a person of labour in the new law?
- Amendments to the Labour Code only legalized the "stranglehold" on an employee's neck. Whereas previously it was possible to refer to decrees and their temporary character, today they have become a law.
Where will it result in? Young people and talented people will leave the country. I have the feeling that the authorities simply do not care how many of our compatriots will leave the country. Officials live their own lives. The gap between the people and the authorities is widening.
- Why do official trade unions praise the new Labour Code so much?
- These people play their part in these structures. TV screens now sling empty words saying that "the new Labour Code took much efforts and time".
They also boasted of 14-day vacation for fathers. But this vacation is not paid. How are you going to improve demographics?
Women with children under 3 have a ban on business trips lifted. If you don't want to go, you violate terms of the contract and receive a reprimand. Two reprimands mean dismissal.
Why do I say this? Not officials from the Ministry of Labour, not representatives of pro-government trade unions, but authorized representatives of people of labour should discuss and implement amendments to the Labour Code. Consideration of laws should be public and proposals of ordinary Belarusians should be taken into account. Unfortunately, the opinion of independent trade unions, public organizations are as ignored as the opinion of the person of labour.
- Do you consider the blacklisting of Belarus by the International Trade Union Confederation to be the best assessment of the situation with workers' rights in Belarus?
- Yes. But let's translate words into deeds. In my opinion, there is some fault of the West in what is happening. After all, the rights and freedoms of citizens should be respected in the EU, but as soon as its borders are crossed, these rights and freedoms can be neglected. The Belarusian economy has a lot of infusions and programs, but we see no conditions laid down by the West. The Belarusian authorities should receive money under the guarantees of human rights.
Unfortunately, we see that people in our are not allowed to speak out, and one has to pay much money for a rally so that the authorities could hear the truth.
- Are we the ones to rely on?
- Exactly. It is time to open eyes and understand that the authorities have done everything to prevent people from well-being in this country. They have built pseudo-socialism at its worst. And the country's leadership rejects to admit that the economic model has not only reached a dead end but forced Belarusians to reach the bottom and languish. People, who come to power in free Belarus, will have to carry out urgent and unpopular reforms, but they are needed for Belarusians to live, not to survive. Only real changes will save our country.