The Lukashenko’s ill-considered decision should prompt the creation of independent trade union units in the private economy sector.
Lukashenko has ordered to set up official trade unions at private enterprises. The wording was rather harsh:
“We had agreed with you that by the end of this year, trade union organizations should be created at all private enterprises. This issue must be resolved by the end of the year. If any private enterprises fail to do it, these private enterprises will be liquidated. You must make these suggestions. We won’t joke anymore. We see how some have behaved and took a course towards the destruction of the state and statehood in our country. Okay, we’ll sort it out by separate directions. But trade union organizations must be created. And in no case should you retreat from this,” Lukashenko said at a meeting with Mikhail Orda, Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (known as FPB).
“What are the consequences of planting formal unions in the private sector?”
The praca-by.info addressed this question to Gennady Fedynich, the leader of the Belarusian Independent REP Trade Union, who answered as follows:
“Several years ago, Orda already received an order to create trade union structures at all enterprises, including the private sector – and failed. Now, we see an outflow from the official trade unions at state-owned enterprises (and it will continue); therefore, it was decided to compensate FPB’s losses at the expense of the private sector. And this is done, according to our sad tradition, by administrative methods, although no one, including Lukashenko and Orda, is allowed to violate the law on trade unions, which stipulates voluntary membership in any trade union; and any created trade unions and their structures, including independent ones, must have equal rights. A person should have a choice: to join a trade union or not to join, and if to join, which one.
There is a sad practice: when a person applied for employment at a state-owned enterprise, there is a must to first write an application for joining the official trade union, and only after that they talk about the future workplace. Apparently, they want to extend the same practice to the private sector, not caring at all whether conditions have been created for the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Belarus.
It is the FPB to blame that the notorious fixed-term contract system in its present poor form was transferred into the Labour Code, same as Ordinance No. 5, according to which a person can be fired in seven days, and the ordinance on parasites. Is this a gift or a betrayal of the members of the FPB trade unions? Trade unions should stand up for workers’ rights and interests, but the FPB has never done and will never do this. Unfortunately, most people are waiting for now, hoping that this will not affect him. It will, and the time will come when people will have to make a choice – who
are you with? The trade union is not the FPB chairman – a trade union is its members, who should create their organizations from below, not from above.”
“How widespread now is quitting the FPB?”
“We have no general figures today, while the FPB is hiding them. But in Minsk we know dozens of enterprises where workers are quitting the official trade unions. I’m sure that the process will intensify after the above leader’s statement.
Moreover, now they plan to extend the effect of collective agreements only to members of trade unions that are members of the FPB, while forgetting about Article 14 of the Labour Code, which clearly states that discrimination based on trade union membership is unacceptable.”
“Lukashenko threatens to liquidate the private enterprises that refuse to form official trade unions.”
“They can try to close some small private entities through the tax authorities and the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), whatever they like. Let them try! I don’t think that today it is so easy to liquidate enterprises, which means also decent jobs, which are sorely lacking in the country today.”
“How can private enterprises behave in such conditions?”
“Some can pretend and imitate the creation of FPB trade union structures; but I would advise as soon as possible to create primary organizations of independent trade unions. Lukashenko’s ill-considered decision should push people to the creation of independent trade union structures in the private sector of the economy.
And we’ll record all the violations related to the ‘fulfilment’ of his order and send them to the International Labour Organization (ILO).”