15 May 2021, Saturday, 7:15
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“You Can Already Write “War and Peace” About the History of Relations Between the Belarusian Authorities and the ILO”

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“You Can Already Write “War and Peace” About the History of Relations Between the Belarusian Authorities and the ILO”
Photo: Reuters

The workers have more and more reasons for dissatisfaction and protests.

On the occasion of Labor Day on May 1, Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) Siarhei Antusevich told Salidarnasts what problems workers of enterprises are facing.

- With what moods the workers are approaching May 1?

- Not only workers but all residents of Belarus are now worried about one problem. How 150 jeeps can get from the Lithuanian border to the city of Minsk. This is, of course, a joke.

More seriously, we continue to see a sharp deterioration in workers' rights. What to talk about if only three weeks pass from the moment the draft amendments to the Labor Code are submitted to the House of Representatives until its approval, if there is no proper discussion, and if the list of grounds for dismissing employees is significantly expanding.

Today people in Belarus work in a difficult psychological atmosphere, which cannot but affect the results of their work. For some reason, those at the top believe that the workers will endure everything, that they can “turn the page” and forget about everything.

People hid their dissatisfaction "in their pockets" now and keep them there, but believe me, this will not always be the case. Yes, probably, and the authorities understand this, so they are trying to prevent objective information from getting into labor collectives and, on the contrary, to prevent it from leaking out of there. It is forbidden to take photographs of the disgrace that is happening inside the factories, they remove the most active and initiative ones from the enterprises.

And, of course, it is impossible not to mention the meager salaries at many enterprises, which, unfortunately, can sometimes be called even shameful. When statistics say that Belarusian salaries are approximately equal to Ukrainian ones, where there is a war, it is very sad. It is bitter to realize that the current government has brought citizens to such a state.

- How do independent trade unions feel?

- All organizations of independent trade unions are under strong pressure from the authorities and employers. For the first time, incomprehensible orders of the prosecutor's office appeared, demands to report to the executive committees. There is no such thing in the law, but, apparently, the goal is to intimidate and neutralize the activists.

They want to extend the atmosphere of fear to all spheres of life so that the employee can walk and be afraid that he will lose his job - it is almost impossible to find a decent job in many Belarusian cities.

- Recently, the German company Helm AG announced the termination of cooperation with Hrodna-Azot. Earlier, the Norwegian Yara hinted at something similar to the leadership of Belaruskali...

- Fortunately, we do not live in an isolated world. And fortunately, many documents regulate employers 'attitudes towards workers' rights which must be followed. The only surprising thing is that it worries foreigners, not Belarusian bosses.

For the first time, Western partners paid attention not only to the quality of products from our country but also to the rights of Belarusian workers. This means that attention is paid to the conditions in which Belarusian workers work, including safety conditions.

- The US has renewed sanctions against 9 Belarusian petrochemical enterprises. How can this affect their work?

- It's not easy to say what the consequences will be. But when these sanctions were in effect before the freeze, they obviously made it harder for businesses to do business. It is no coincidence that Belaruskali was expelled from the Belneftekhim concern for salvation purposes.

- In the fall, Lukashenka demanded by the end of the year to create pro-government trade union cells at private enterprises, threatening them with liquidation. How did this story end?

- FPB tried to find such private enterprises and create their own primary organizations there. But since we do not hear boasting about the successful completion of this task, it can be assumed that this did not happen.

An interesting point: FPB claims that it unites in its ranks about 95% of the working-age population. But if all of a sudden it was necessary to create organizations for private traders, then, probably, someone is cunning about these statistics.

- Earlier this year, the FPB collected over a million signatures under a letter to the International Labor Organization condemning the European sanctions. What was the reaction there?

- It should be understood that the ILO could not have responded sympathetically to the Belarusian authorities since they are well aware of the situation in our country. The ILO works to ensure that international labor standards are met in different countries. After an investigation in Belarus, the ILO back in 2004 issued a package of recommendations to the Belarusian authorities. They pledged to implement them, but most of these recommendations have not yet been implemented.

In general, “War and Peace” could have been written about the history of relations between the Belarusian authorities and the ILO. Belarus is in the anti-rating of this international organization, which has made many attempts to normalize the situation in our country. Therefore, you will not be able to talk into something or mislead the ILO.