Belarus: workers demand rights without lay-offs

We reproduce an article by the comrades of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) for their union IndustriALL, against the boss´ abuses.

Instead of resolving the issue of unsafe working conditions, the German employer Deilmann-Haniel begins to dismiss Belarusian workers for their signatures under a legitimate appeal to the State labour inspectorate. IndustriALL Belarusian affiliate Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) campaigns for decent working conditions and job security on behalf of its members at Deilmann-Haniel.

According to the union, any workplace can be made safe, but not the one underground, where there are certain risks from which are impossible to insure against. All underground work is dangerous and harmful to health, and therefore, it requires certification of the workplace. According to the results of certification, a hazard class is issued; Additional guarantees and payments are determined.

Since 2017, mine shafts of the Nezhinsky Mining and Processing Plant have been drilled for the LLC “Slavkali” by the German company Deilmann-Haniel GmbH. Both local Belarusian workers and workers from Germany and Russia work here as shaft-sinkers. About one third of the work has been done, while construction should be completed by 2022.

The German company Deilmann-Haniel did not pass certification. The union believes that if the working conditions were safe and in line with Belarusian standards, then the German company would successfully pass certification. And since such jobs are not a priori safe, then Deilmann-Haniel is looking for a reason not to conduct certification, so as not to incur additional costs for additional payments to workers and not to hire additional staff. In addition, the employees of the company face discrimination in pay. People hired in the same specialty and qualification get different pay for the same work performed, depending on their citizenship. According to the workers, the Germans are in a privileged position, then the Russians follow the hierarchy, and the local Belarusians are in last place.

Deilmann-Haniel workers who sought help from BITU claim that working conditions are unsafe. Some of the workers have work experience at JSC “Belaruskali”, the fourth largest potash producer in the world. From their experience these workers know firsthand the working conditions in mines in Belarus. If it is impossible to secure the workplace, the state provides compensation for work with harmful and / or dangerous working conditions, in particular, a shorter working day (7 hours, not 8), additional leave of 42 days to the minimum leave (total of 66 days), cash surcharges. Plus, employees fall under supplementary pension insurance. The company must deduct 9% of their salary to the social security fund; and the employee then chooses him/herself whether to retire 10 years earlier or to take this money.

The collective appeals of workers to state bodies did not bring any results. Instead of solving the problem, government agencies are looking for a reason not to solve it. Four months have passed since the workers turned to the labour inspectorate. During this time, the employer managed to change the name to Redpath Deilmann and concludes employment contracts with the employees, but not with all of them. Those employees who signed a collective appeal to the labour inspectorate, and these are twenty people, began to receive notifications about the non-extension of labour contracts with them. Coincidence? Does not look like.

At the meeting with BITU leaders, the German employer, Mr. Holger Hertel, said that the only thing that worried him was to put the facility into operation on time. Other questions do not interest him. And now, when only one third of the work has been completed, he is dismissing highly qualified specialists, and is going to replace them with new ones, as evidenced by the job advertisements for Redpath Haniel.

The Belarusian Independent trade union, on behalf of its members, employees of the German mining company Redpath Deilmann, requires compliance with Belarusian law. And first, the BITU demands to keep jobs for Belarusian workers, who have the legal right in this country to demand justice in the workplace, just like the German workers in the homeland of this German employer.

Raman Yerashenia