News / 28.03.19

"In Poland, employers have to comply with ethical standards, but have they to in Belarus?"

Lyudmila Grechits, a former worker of the Polish "Polpharma" Company, applied to the REP Trade Union for legal help. She believes that her dismissal was caused by personal dislike of the head of the Belarusian company branch and by her decision to defend her rights.

In 2011-2016, Lyudmila successfully worked as a manager for the Belarusian branch of the above Polish pharmaceutical company:

"In 2016, I took part in a major international meeting in Warsaw. There I presented a report on cooperation with pharmaceutical networks in Belarus, and my Polish supervisor was highly pleased with the report. My direct boss in Belarus confirmed that we should further advance with work with local pharmacies. There are more than 500 of them in Minsk only; working with them means quite a lot of travelling, while my previous duties assumed a huge amount of office paperwork. Combining these two activities is simply impossible. However, my boss in Minsk was pressing me demanding that I do everything together. Feeling that it became unbearable, I decided to write to two directors in Poland."

Despite the fact that the "Polpharma" Company has its own Ethics Committee, which should guarantee the workers' protection in case of biased attitude and any other forms of discrimination, Lyudmila's voice was not heard there. According to her story, the Belarusian branch signed the Code of Ethics in Belarus only after her first appeal, i.e., much later than the similar branches in Russia and Kazakhstan.

In December 2016, Lyudmila Grechits was fired "in connection with the staff reduction"; however, she managed to achieve reinstatement through the court. But the pressure from the boss, according to her story, grew only stronger:

"Back at work, they began giving me obviously impracticable tasks, demanding to cope within a day with the task that earlier took me a fortnight to perform. Besides, they ordered me to organize promotional actions, which are prohibited by the resolution of the Ministry of Public Health. According to the law, an employer has no right to force subordinates to violate the legislation in force. I received five reprimands for such actions; and in late August 2017, I was dismissed with a respective entry in my work record book. I'm sure it was done deliberately by my local boss. It turns out that I was fired against the ruling of the Minsk City Court about the restoration of previous essential conditions, and for this, Belarus assumes criminal liability. I am very sorry to lose my job, which I really love and am rightfully a professional in my field."

Yuri Belyakov, the legal inspector of the REP Trade Union, notes that, unfortunately, this is a common practice, when the employer actually squeezes a "disliked" employee, despite his or her professionalism:

"Many people turn to the REP Trade Union with similar problems. Unfortunately, Presidential Ordinance No. 5 allows an employer to dismiss a worker in 5 days. In the Lyudmila's case, the employer changed her essential working conditions, after which he found a way to break off the employment relationship with her under point 4, Article 42 of the Labour Code for alleged systematic violation of labour discipline. Lyudmila has passed all the national instances, and the Supreme Court upheld her dismissal for systematic violations of labour discipline. Besides, according to the court ruling, she must partially pay for the services of the company's lawyer. Now, only a protest of the General Public Prosecutor can overturn the ruling."

Gennady Fedynich, the leader of the REP Trade Union, expressed his viewpoint on this case:

"The company, where Lyudmila Grechits worked, is the Belarusian branch of the well-known Polish 'Polpharma' pharmaceutical company. Most of the cases we have worked with are associated with Belarusian or Russian employers operating in Belarus. This case, unfortunately, can be called a classic disregard for both human rights and the rights of a professional worker by the employer. Obviously, what happened with Lyudmila was pressure by the employer on the employee who has her viewpoint and is not afraid to defend it. However, the 'Polpharma' Company has officially joined the UN initiative on the development, implementation and spread of corporate social responsibility and should follow the relevant Ethics Code, which imposes, together with international standards, certain obligations on the employer, which he had failed to follow. It turns out that in Poland it is a must, but not in Belarus."

The REP leader said that the union would communicate the National Contact Centre in Warsaw, which deals with such cases:

"I believe that this will be one of the first appeals from Belarus. Besides, the 'Solidarity' trade union and the one of the chemical industry are operating at the head 'Polpharma' office in the vicinity of Warsaw. The REP will appeal to them asking to defend the rights of Lyudmila, a member of our trade union, and to pay attention to the inadmissibility of this practice used by the boss of one of its branches."

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