A new presidential decree in Belarus has ruled that unemployed workers will be subject to additional charges for public services subsidized by the state.
The new decree No.1 “On promotion of employment of population", adopted on 25 January 2018, replaces the heavily criticized decree No. 3 “On prevention of social dependency", dubbed ‘decree on social parasitism’, which resulted in mass protests in the beginning of the last year.
IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates in Belarus welcome the abolishment of the tax on being unemployed, but raise concerns about the new decree.
The new decree cancels the previously imposed US$240 tax on unemployed Belarusian citizens if they worked less than 183 days a year. However, starting from 2019, unemployed workers will have to pay full costs of public services subsidized by the state. The list of services will be determined by the government by April 2018. Therefore, the concept of punishing citizens being not able to find a job in Belarus remains a key feature of the new decree. The decree will most likely further impoverish people who already suffer from joblessness.
There are also views that the new decree could stimulate employment, as it simplifies registration process for an individual entrepreneur. With the new decree, it is said, it will be easier for Belarusians to find a job in the service sector. Along with this, since the authorities will have to provide a job guarantee, in case of redundancies at an enterprise, unions will be able to demand from local authorities retraining and employment of dismissed workers.
However, most unions are of the opinion that the new decree will not properly address the concerns of Belarusian workers and in fact will strip them of their social protection and demotivate in getting decent wages and good working conditions.
According to one IndustriALL affiliate: “The government seems to be ready to employ everybody, but there is not a word about the wage. Just a job for job’s sake. The decree does not provide motivation for a high-performance and quality work. To which category we should refer more than 700 thousand citizens who work abroad and bring earned money to their families? What should we do with housewives raising their children? Previously, they were classified as ‘parasites’?”
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“Apparently there are no significant changes through the newly-adopted decree as its main structure remains the same as the previous one. It is shameful that Belarusian workers continue to suffer from meaningless decisions taken by the government.
“We stand in solidarity with all the workers in Belarus. We strongly support fundamental trade union rights and democracy in the country. However, independent unions, particularly REPAM and its leadership, are still subject to prosecution over their democratic opposition to the policies and decisions, which we believe, lead the country nowhere.”