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Belarusian unions oppose law calling unemployed "social parasites"

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16 November, 2016The government of Belarus has passed an unjust law that taxes people for unemployment and accuses them of being parasites. Two IndustriALL Global Union affiliates have joined the fight to have it repealed.

The decree "On prevention of social dependency” was passed on 2 April 2015. On 2 November, representatives of the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union (REPAM), Belarusian Independent trade union of miners, chemists, oil-refiners, transport workers, builders and other workers (BITU) as well as representatives of human rights organizations came together at a round table discussion to establish an action plan to fight the decree on “parasitism”.

The idea to hold the meeting came from REPAM, many of whose members had appealed to the union after they had received notices from the tax office with the requirement to report on the employment and payment of taxes in 2015.

The chair of REPAM Gennady Fedynich stated:

"People began to receive the so-called "letters of happiness" in which they are obliged to prove that they worked in Belarus for more than 189 days in 2015 and paid taxes. We see the crudity and injustice of the decree in this case. If you worked, for example, one day less, 188 days, you have to pay the tax on "parasitism". This decree violates the Constitution, which clearly says that the job is a worker's right, not an obligation".

The BITU supported the proposal to create a legal mechanism to oppose decree.

"Since such decrees have become a norm in Belarus (decree No.2, No.5, No.29, No.9) and they worsen the situation of workers, we took the initiative to formulate a plan of action. We determined the role of the roundtable participants, as well as tasks. In addition, there will be a system of compulsory insurance against unemployment in Belarus in 2018, so the enterprises will have an additional tax. This approach will finally finish off working enterprises", said Nikolay Zimin, the chair of the BITU.

Following the discussion it was decided:

  • To create a step-by-step manual for citizens on how to legally refuse the implementation of the decree;
  • To prepare an instruction booklet for lawyers and a sample statement of claim in court to appeal the request for payment of tax on "parasitism";
  • To hold regular protests and to organize the signature collection for the decree’s abolition;
  • To cover the issue in the media and in social networks;
  • To apply to international organizations, including the ILO, with a request to examine the decree in accordance with the international standards;
  • To contact the Russian trade unions and federation of trade unions of Belarus, with a request to express their position to the decree;
  • To send petitions to public authorities with a request to explain the numerous questions related to the decree’s implementation.

The round table participants assigned responsibilities and agreed to start the activities in the near future. The step-by-step manual for citizens should be ready by 20th of November.

"The success depends entirely on us. The purpose of trade unions and human rights activists is if not to cancel the decree, then at least to show its full inconsistency", summarized Gennady Fedynich.