To pay or not to pay the bills, and where to go to defend one's rights: at the request of the "Salidarnasts", Leonid Sudalenko, the legal labour inspector of the REP Trade Union for the Gomel Region, makes recommendations to those Belarusians, ranked by the authorities as those unemployed by the national economy.
"I think we'll learn quite a lot of interesting things in February, when people start receiving new bills and unexpectedly find themselves among 'parasites'," said Leonid Sudalenko, the legal labour inspector of the REP Trade Union for the Gomel Region. "New bills will come to regular soldiers, to those who study or work abroad, and to women with small children, like it was the case with the Yulia Ganisevskaya, a mother of four children from Gomel, who was served a 'letter of happiness' by a school teacher."
In the opinion of the lawyer, bureaucrats from the respective commissions wouldn't bother to check the data and put everyone who pays no taxes into the "parasite" lists.
"They see that the FSZN (Population Social Protection Fund) database fixes to taxes paid by a citizen, an adult and able-bodied one, registered at a certain address. Accordingly, in their opinion, he is not engaged in the national economy. They don't even check why it has happened," Mr Sudalenko has explained. "After all, no one checked the real situation of that woman from Gomel; no one came to see that she has a small child under 7 years old; teachers were just obliged to serve the letters; and they did it without objections. This shows a superficial attitude of bureaucrats to their duties. They just take the old lists."
"Thus, what to do in a situation if one has been included into such a database?"
- Is it necessary to prove that you are not a "parasite", if you get into the database by accident?
"The question is: should we, law-abiding citizens, prove our innocence to the officials? Why should we walk round their offices and prove our innocence?" Leonid Sudalenko asks. "My advice is to defend one's rights and go to court. That's what I recommended to the above Yulia – to sue the 'parasite commission' at court, claiming compensation of moral harm. We, Belarusians have the right to demand such compensations."
- What to do, if someone gets into the "parasite" database "correctly"?
"Of course, one can accept it and pay the "fat" bills. But one can also stand up and try to prove that in a country, where people buy goods and services, there can be no people unemployed in the national economy. Now, we are helping drafting a lawsuit for Vladimir Teremetsky from the town of Bragin. He was also asked to confirm his employment in the economy, but he decided not to wait for a fivefold utility bill (he is an owner of a three-room apartment), and not only demanded to exclude him from the 'parasite' database, but also to seek a check of the constitutionality of the notorious 'parasite' Presidential Ordinance. He clearly outlined his claims to the state; and in the court he will prove that the fact that he is not employed by a particular employer does not mean that he fails to take part in funding the government's spending. This may be the first litigation on the updated ordinance."
According to Mr Sudalenko, there are many questions to the state:
"Let the authorities explain, why a craftsman, after paying one basic unit (currently, BYN 25.5) of annual lump-sum tax is considered to be employed in the national economy, while Teremetsky, who owns a car and pays 8 basic units, is not? After all, even when buying a loaf of bread, we pay an indirect tax; and when buying fuel, alcohol, tobacco and services, we pay excises, thus, taking part in financing the state. I come to a notary – I pay the fee; I bring a lawsuit to the court – I pay the state duty," Leonid reminds. "Thus, instead of creating jobs, the state is again harnessing the horse behind the cart. Where are vacancies in district centres like Bragin, Dobrush or Loyev, not to say about smaller dwelling settlements? There is one vacancy for the whole district with a salary of BYN 300 a month, and a line of candidates is already claiming for it."
- Do I need to pay the "fat" tariffs?
Already in February, "those not employed in the economy" will start receiving new bills under increased tariffs. What to do if you refuse to plead guilty?
The union lawyer advises to pay the bills under old tariffs:
"Let us pay for what we accept, in order no to have the penalty accrued. Let's see what happens next, how many people will be affected, and how people will behave. In 2017, out of 480,000 people, 50,000 paid the 'parasite tax' voluntarily, while the rest came out to protest. Let's see now how a lady pensioner behaves, if she'll have to pay fivefold for her non-working son or daughter. Each family will have its own story. In any case, we should understand that this ordinance has no legal force."
- Where to go if they've calculated one's bill at the "parasite" tariff?
"It makes no sense to appeal to the utility service, because they do what they are ordered to. I advise people to go to court. If you are not able to do it yourself, come to us, to rights defenders and independent trade unions, in this case, to in the REP, which I represent in the Gomel Region. Let's defend our rights together. Why should we admit our defeat in advance? Let's not pay the extra tariffs and see what happens."
- And if it turns out that the amount of compensation is quite small?
"Indeed, it may come out that the 'parasite' bill turns out to be not so impressive, because the authorities first promise to increase tariff only for some services. Besides, all Belarusians will soon face a 100% payment for utilities. Thus, maybe there is no reason to make a fuss?"
"They've deliberately blurred the picture to somehow soften the blow. Indeed, they had planned to make medical services paid since January 1, and introduce a special 'parasite' transport fares. In all likelihood, they remembered the mistakes of 2017," Leonid Sudalenko has noted. "On January 1, 2019, we woke up not in the country of 'parasites', but in a country not employed in the economy. Now, they'll look at how we behave in this situation. Shall we swallow it or not? Yes, if we pay and keep silent, there'll be definitely no way into the future."
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