Belarus is notoriously known for its widespread use of fixed short-term labour contracts. On December 17, a district court of Brest refused to reinstate Victor Boreiko, a member of the REP Trade Union, at work and dismissed all other claims.
Earlier, the employer – the OJSC “Tsvetotron” – refused to renew Victor’s labour contract, although he had been working at the company since 1985 (for about 35 years) as a mechanic-assembler.
“Since 2008, Victor is a member of our trade union; he is one of the most active members of the independent trade union movement at the ‘Tsvetotron’ factory,” says Zinaida Mikhnyuk, the REP leader in the Brest Region. She came to support the activist at the trial.
On October 1, 2019, Victor suffered a stroke at his workplace, after which he underwent treatment and on December 10, 2019, he resumed working. He had no contraindications to the work as a Category 5 locksmith-repairman.
On March 12, 2020, he was examined by the Medical Rehabilitation Examination Commission (MREC), which awarded him Group III disability and an individual rehabilitation programme, according to which he was to undergo a course of labour and social rehabilitation from March 12, 2020 to April 2021.
“And when he brought this programme and the MREC conclusion, the employer, based on these requirements, changed his working conditions; and there were some restrictions on the works he could not perform, for example, at a height and in wells,” Vladimir Malei, a REP legal inspector for the region, has explained.
Workers of Group III disability have the right to work one our less a day, or have additional day off per week. Victor preferred the second option.
His contract ended on October 31, 2020. In September, the employer notified him that he did not intend to renew the contract with him.
“I advised him to submit an application to the employer about his desire to extend the contract. There was no response from his bosses; and on October 31, Victor had a day off. They called him and asked to come to the factory. There, he was immediately sent to the personnel division, where they gave him his work record book and showed the order of his dismissal. We went to court to protect the interests of our trade union member,” said Vladimir Malei.
He helped the worker to draw up a claim demanding his reinstatement at work, recover the amount for the time of his forced absenteeism and compensation for moral harm.
“Victor has conscientiously performed his duties during the previous terms of the contract. He had no violations of production and labour discipline. The Labour Code says that at the request of an employee, the employer must renew the contract with such an employee. Victor Boreiko had an intention to continue working,” said the lawyer.
The second important point is that if an employee has a disability and is undergoing an individual rehabilitation program, the employer has no right to terminate the contract.1
However, the prosecutor who participated in the session failed to respond to the arguments of the trade union lawyer. And the court decided to dismiss the claim. Now, Victor Boreiko intends to appeal against the judgement at a higher instance.
1 Labour Code of the Republic of Belarus: Article 283. Exercising disabled persons’ right to work: The termination of an employment contract on the initiative of the employer with the disabled persons undergoing medical, vocational, labour and social rehabilitation in the relevant organizations, regardless of the period of stay in them, is not allowed.
“Unfortunately, this situation is an example of how unequal rights are applied to employers and employees, since enterprise bosses have the right to terminate a labour contract upon expiry thereof without even explaining the reasons,” Vladimir Malei has summed up.
Since 2003, in Belarus, all employees are covered with the fixed short-term contract system. For more than 20 years, the REP Trade Union and other independent trade unions have been opposing this system, since in the existing state system of rule it significantly worsens the employees’ legal status.