Legal inspectors and volunteers of the REP Trade Union have summed up the work of the legal service in Quarter 1 of 2019, and discussed future information campaigns and setting up a working group for drafting proposals for changing the country's current legislation.
Yuri Belyakov, the REP's legal inspector for Minsk and Minsk Region:
"In my practice, the number of disputes settled in the pre-trial order is growing. I believe that this is a very important and often the best way of settling an employee-employer conflict. We have examples of parties' conciliation at court, and of cases, when the trade union interferes, and the employer, understanding the illegality of his/her actions, prefers to fulfil our and worker's rightful claims.
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"We see that employers continue actively benefiting from their employees' poor legal literacy," Mr Belyakov continued. "Unfortunately, people often just don't read what they sign."
"Many of our applicants want to break their contracts and leave the country"
Gennady Voronov, a lawyer and a REP activist:
"Over the past year, the working conditions and wages at many enterprises have deteriorated drastically. In the worsened situation, many workers and managers are not ready to continue working in Belarus. Many of those who turn to our union want to break their labour contract and leave the country. But under the current form of contractual employment, they can't do it in a civilized manner. Very often, employers, who are not willing to pay the due essential dismissal allowances, are ready to get rid of an employee in any way. Should our country have a favourable economic and political climate, the contract system was not an instrument of pressure, but, on the contrary, a guarantee of decent wages and normal working conditions.
"Ten percent of capable population is registered as parasites"
Leonid Sudalenko, the REP's legal inspector for Gomel and Gomel Region:
"Since the updated 'parasite' ordinance is in force since the start of 2019, and people are receiving their first 'fattened' utility bills, our work in Gomel is mostly dedicated to this very issue. If we compare the today's situation with that of 2017, we see that authorities are trying to bring down the protest moods: payments are increasing gradually instead of a one-time tax. The updated legislation affects almost every family – 1 % of the working-age population is stigmatized as parasites. Instead of creating jobs with decent salaries, they force people to work for food. But I want to remind you that those who are in the parasites' database will have to pay their increased gas tariffs already this autumn. It turns out that the overall utility pay will increase several-fold."
After Maria Tarasenko, Nika Rakitina, a Gomel writer, was excluded from the list of "parasites"
"Since the start of the year, six people have addressed our union branch in Gomel on the issue of exclusion from the 'parasite' database. We accumulate precedents and work towards our strategic goal – the abolition of the ordinance. We manage to free people from paying their increased utility bills. I should note that information support is very important in such resonant cases," Leonid Sudalenko has concluded.
"Employees and employers have unequal rights"
Alexander Khamratov, a lawyer and a REP activist:
"Imposing material liability on employees is one of the pressing topics with which people turn to the REP Trade Union. If an employee doesn't agree to impose property responsibility on him/her, he/she won't be hired. This gives freedom to unscrupulous employers and at the same time handcuffs and keeps employees in fear."
"Unfortunately, the presumption of innocence does not work in Belarus, including in the labour legislation. An employee must prove his/her innocence, instead of competent bodies performing their direct duties – searching for proofs, and only then – put forwards charges based thereon."
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"Employees and employers have unequal rights. For example, the legislator has introduced the limitation periods for going to court on labour rights violation – 1-3 months for an employee, and one year – for an employer. This is a classical example of discrimination," Mr Khamratov has concluded.