Authority won by daily work
7th Congress of the Trade Union Federation discusses role of trade unions in protecting workers’ interests and rights and sets further goals
The forum gathered over 500 delegates from all over the country, including many foreign guests. Besides summing up results and setting goals for the coming five years, the forum is a vital meeting place for debating the interests of Belarusian workers. The Chairman of the Trade Union Federation, Mikhail Orda, notes that the organisation currently represents over 4 million people in Belarus (96.5 percent of all those ‘employable’). He adds, “We represent all spheres of the national economy, from industry, construction and agriculture to education and health care. Looking at the Trade Union Federation’s representation across the regions, we cover the complete map.”
The Trade Union Federation enjoys the greatest membership in Belarus, being extremely popular. Trade unions work with people daily, focusing on a range of issues — including settlement of labour relations and solving personal problems. If a company enjoys a strong trade union organisation and has a collective labour agreement concluded, an employer cannot openly break the law. All their decisions must follow this collective treaty. The Trade Union Federation has often helped protect people’s interests. Last year alone, its involvement corrected the Council of Minister’s ruling on salaries. As a result, the envisaging of lower salaries in cases of low production efficiency was overturned, preventing employees from suffering as a result of directors’ marketing or financial policy mismanagement.
The establishment of trade union organisations at non-state enterprises is high on the agenda. At present, over 3,000 trade union organisations operate at public firms — uniting around 800,000 workers. Work is set to continue. The Trade Union Federation boasts huge potential to benefit society. Among its recent activity has been the renewal of monuments and obelisks on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory. It has also done a great job in reconstructing the Mound of Glory Memorial Complex. Symbolically, the congress began its session at this sacred place. Enjoying peace and civil concordance, we can solve any possible task.
The International Labour Organisation recently announced that only around 25 percent of the world’s employable population is in work; others have temporary contracts or work without agreements, lacking ‘social guarantees’.
In his speech at the Trade Union Federation Congress, President Alexander Lukashenko stated that, against the backdrop of the global financial crisis and economic sanctions against Russia, Belarus has done well in overcoming economic decline. “Belarusian experience in overcoming the economic recession is, in essence, unique. Many people lost their jobs in the USA and Western Europe: hundreds of thousands lost their jobs overnight. However, we survived then and will manage now,” he underlined.
According to the President, Belarus has an open-economy, making it heavily influenced by external factors. “At present, we are experiencing some difficulties, primarily due to the crisis affecting our main trade partners,” said Mr. Lukashenko. He notes that problems endured by trade partners invariably affect Belarusian enterprises. “Nevertheless, we have experience of working under such conditions,” he added. Securing the competitiveness of Belarusian goods on foreign markets is a number one economic priority, emphasised the President. He believes it is vital to increase labour productivity, while ensuring high quality merchandise and services, reducing costs, saving resources, and increasing each employee’s personal responsibility and motivation. He noted that the whole world is experiencing ‘job cuts’, with some employers failing to place workers’ interests to the fore, sacrificing them to ensure profitability and efficiency.
He asserted, “A system of checks and balances exists to oversee this — via trade union organisations. In line with the law, the latter should avoid unjustified job cuts. Clearly, it’s necessary to act from a position of common sense. New technologies are developing and some working functions naturally disappear — being replaced by machinery. However, in this case, dismissed workers should be offered new positions.” In his speech, Mr. Lukashenko stated that all changes and new approaches should aim to ensure fair protection and support for workers. “This is the core of Belarus’ social-economic model. We’ll never set aside these principles.” He is keen to see individuals remain at the centre of state policy, viewing the ‘state for the people’ as a guiding principle rather than a mere slogan. He asserts that our political system has been created to ‘guarantee peace and order’. “Our economic model provides the opportunity to work and earn money. We’ve created a powerful social system, with affordable medicine, education, accommodation and reliable social protection,” added the President, stressing that this will continue.
According to Mr. Lukashenko, trade unions should be set up at all enterprises by mid-2016. “Belarus’ private sector is steadily growing within the economy, with foreign investors arriving and joint companies established, alongside branches of major foreign corporations. Our countrymen work there and have all rights to enjoy protection of their interests,” the President stated. Mr. Lukashenko emphasises that Belarus has made a fully conscious choice in strengthening its union with Russia and establishing the Eurasian Economic Union. At present, the country is expanding its geography of co-operation and enjoying multi-sided strategic collaboration with China and other major world players. “In dialogue with the West, we sometimes face bias and prepossession. With this in mind, the Trade Union Federation needs to strengthen Belarus’ image abroad. We need to defend our position and provide true information to the International Labour Organisation.”
By Vasily Kharitonov