In response to the petition demanding to abolish the system of fixed-term labour contracts, Igor Starovoitov, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection, stated that this was not expedient. Thus, about a third of working Belarusians found themselves on "short leashes" firmly kept by employers' hands.
The Minister noted that the fixed-term contracts were aimed at ensuring discipline and order in industry, increasing the responsibility of the parties to the contract, as well as increasing the stability of production processes.
However, experts believe that this practice, on the contrary, weakens the protection of workers' labour rights and deprives them of certain benefits, guaranteed by termless contracts.
"Initially, when Ordinance No. 29 was signed, it had its advantages, as it allowed increasing salaries and keeping specialists at enterprises," recalls Gennady Fedynich, now an adviser and consultant to the REP Trade Union. "But gradually the Ordinance turned into the above 'short leashes', by means of which employers keep their workers in place for years. Even after working in a company for more than five years, one can't claim a termless labour contract: the employer only has the right to choose the form thereof; and most of them prefer fixed-term ones."
"This is a sort of 'yoke' on the neck of Belarusian workers unprecedented for any neighbouring or CIS member-country. When eight years ago we collected signatures for holding a referendum on this ordinance, even state officials supported the idea to abolish it," says Gennady Fedynich.
Experts identify several drawbacks of short fixed-term contracts; the basic one is the permanent stressful condition for all the workers: every year, they face a dilemma: will the employer extend the contract, or should one look for another job. About a third of all concluded contracts are one-year-long ones. And the employer is free not to extend them without giving any reasons or explanations.
"30 days and 30 nights at work for USD 100 a month"
"Fixed-term contracts give no motivation to work. A human has to obey his or her employer as a slave; and if his/her opinion on the issues of wages or labour safety, or, say, on what happens at the enterprise or in the country as a whole, does not coincide with the employer's one, he/she will be surely fired upon contract expiration," the REP leader has concluded.
"Either director or watchman: one family – two 'parasites'"
In their turn, workers under termless contracts feel themselves and really are much more secure.
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