The Belarusians, who happened to get into the database of the "capable citizens unemployed in the national economy", have been summoned to "parasite" commissions. Invitations ("letters of happiness") come to those, formally uncovered by Ordinance No. 1: mothers with many children or babies, or people, who have paid their income tax.
Is summon to the commission a violation of Belarusians' rights of and how to deal with it? The questions of the Charter97.org are answered by Gennady Fedynich, the leader of the REP Trade Union:
"Let's start with the fact that these commissions fail to match the title. Formally, they are named quite adequately: 'Commissions to Promote Population's Employment'. But when we tried to include our unionists into these commissions in Minsk and regional capitals, they were all rejected; although before the campaign, the Labour Minister, Irina Kostevich, had stated that commissions would be open to all public organizations. Therefore, we wanted our activists to work there on the voluntary basis and clear out what they are actually busy with … The truth is that in the regions these commissions cannot offer jobs for at least BYN 400 a month. There are no such vacancies. Belarusians are blatantly offered to work for BYN 200-250 a month."
"Do they really think there that Belarusians' labour is so cheap; and people will agree to work eight hours a day for USD 100 a month? It's just a mockery over their fellow countrymen, and over the common sense!"
"How can you comment on the fact that commissions summon even those, who are not formally covered by Ordinance No. 1?"
"Yes, at the REP, we know about such cases. We know that "letters of happiness' are served by teachers – in the localities, where their pupils live. Commission bosses want to save budget money and spread summons by forcing state servants to do it for free. The ordinance as such and the entire database of those 'unemployed in the economy' are illegal; therefore, they can classify anyone as a 'parasite'. Another thing is important; and I, therefore, want to address people: don't go to these 'parasite' commissions at all. You are not obliged to prove that you are or are not subject to any illegal ordinances. Let the authors of the decree prove this, since they have already taken up this absurdity."
"Therefore, my advice is just to ignore the 'parasite' commissions and escape this mockery and absurdity. Authorities are unable to offer decent jobs to people jobs; Belarus is among the top ten countries, whose citizens most of all leave to work abroad. No one is obliged to prove to some commissions that he is 'engaged in the economy'."
"Belarusians are forced into the alternative: to work abroad for decent money, bearing the stigma of 'parasites' and pay increased utility bills, or to work in Belarus for many times lower wages. Can we say that Belarus uses forced labour?"
"Of course, Ordinance No. 3 (by the way, it has not been officially cancelled), and Ordinance No. 1 are elements of forced labour. This is stated not only by the REP Trade Union – it has been recognized by International Labour Organization (ILO)."
"According to the Constitution of Belarus, labour is not a human's obligation, but a human's right. Naturally, it should be labour for decent wages. Let me remind you that the Constitution is the fundamental law for everyone, including the ruler with his entourage, and on the basis thereof we can demand the attraction of authors of the above ordinances to liability. In this context, we've already prepared and will continue drafting documents for applying to the ILO."
"What are you seeking from the ILO?"
"Of course, sanctions must be imposed on the leadership of the country, who promotes forced labour, you need to impose sanctions. Unfortunately, the ILO system itself is quite bureaucratic; the organization consists of various actors, including governments and trade unions. Nevertheless, at the last ILO session in June 2018, the government of Belarus was given clear instructions on how to stop using forced labour. These instructions remain unfulfilled. Some time ago, Belarus was deprived of trade preferences for the failure to fulfil ILO's recommendations. A blatant ignoring the ILO guidance may lead to the exclusion of Belarus from the organization. Since its creation in 1948, there were 3 or 4 such cases. This will strengthen the international isolation of Lukashenko's regime."
"Therefore, we do everything to raise the issues of forced labour in Belarus and the illegality of 'parasite' ordinances at the international level. The authorities themselves understand quite well that the notorious ordinances should be cancelled' but they don't want to lose, as Frenchmen say, 'esprit de corps', that is, their image in the people's eyes."