2010 10/01
Віктар Сіліч, Жодзіна

Viktar Silich, Zhodzina

The resident of Zhodzina Viktar Silich, protected his right to freedom of conscience and belief, free entry or non-entry in the official trade union. With the support of local human rights defenders, he made his company’s officials, through performing the Labor Code of the Republic of Belarus, to pay him bonuses properly like to any other employee.

How did the events develop? What was the reason for the violation of law? And what in reality helped improve the situation for the better at the stage of non-judicial proceedings?

It all started when with reference to the provision of the collective agreement and the fact that the employee is not member of the official trade union of Zhodzina bakery, he was denied bonuses for properly worked period.

Viktar Silich, employee of Barysaukhlebpram, Zhodzina Bakery (40 years of October St, 1А, 222160, Zhodzina, since 02.02.2000) in 2007 out of his own convictions left the trade union. On 19.08.2009 the enlarged meeting of the administration and the trade union of “Zhodzina bakery” amended and supplemented the collective agreement for 2008-2011.

As a result, paragraph 1.2 of Appendix #11 of the “Provisions on bonuses to workers on occasion of holidays and material rewards” was amended.

These changes completely deprived non-union workers of any bonuses.

Thus, workers who are not union members, contrary to their beliefs were actually forced to join the union, which is a violation of Article 33 of the Constitution, which states that “everyone is guaranteed freedom of opinion … and freedom of expression” … and that “no one could be compelled to express their beliefs or to deny them … “.

This provision receives detailed and more thorough explanation in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is deemed as international and binding for Belarus and each entity of law in its territory.

The current procedure on bonuses in Paragraph 2.2 notes that the bonus is paid from profits, which remained at the disposal of the enterprise.

Having obtained the necessary consultations with lawyers, and advice of local human rights defenders, convinced that his rights are grossly violated, since the income earned is not only that of the union members, but belongs to the whole staff of Zhodzina bakery, on 22.10.2009 Viktar Silich addressed the management of the company with an appeal, and on 04.11.2009 – another complaint to Zhodzina prosecutor’s office.

In his address to the leadership of the company Viktar Silich in particular noted that “Paragraph 8.13 of the collective agreement violates Art. 15 of his employment contract № 75/09 and Article 14 of the Labor Code of the Republic of Belarus, so under Article 14 of the Labor Code of the Republic of Belarus, he reserves the right to appeal to the court.”

He expressed his conviction that the amendment was also a violation of Art.42 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.

Viktar Silich expressed confidence that Paragraph 1.2 of the “Provisions on bonuses to workers on occasion of holidays and material rewards” adopted on 19.08.2009 was discriminatory and in accordance with Art. 14 of the Labor Code of the Republic of Belarus illegal and void. In his statement of 04.11.2009 the worker also asked the prosecutors to respond to the violation of applicable laws.

Zhodina prosecutor’s office in its reply dated 07.11.2009 pointed to the applicant’s right to seek justice in court.

As a result, the management of Zhodzina Bakery noticed and recognized the alleged claim of Viktar Silich as legitimate and promised to promptly correct the irregularities.

Order № 336 of 06.11.2009 by the company’s management ruled to pay Viktar Silich the bonuses due for August and September of 2009 with a total of 160,540 BYR.

The case in obtaining the earned bonuses by a non-member of the official trade union had a wide resonance in the enterprise and corresponding positive effects.

Meanwhile, it was odd that, even after Viktar Silich’s positive results, other non-members of the union were in no hurry to send similar appeals to the administration of the company to get the bonuses owed to them for the period.

But, as it can be seen, by understanding the relevance of the issue and the situation at the plant, another step of Zhodzina Bakery was to pay the bonuses to the whole staff without discrimination exceptions concerning non-membership in the official trade union.

And yet, what helped improve the situation for the better?

It is quite possible that the above-mentioned positive example is primarily the result of the active and strong, accurate, timely stated position of one of the employees, who in reality wanted to go to court if the administration refused to restore his damaged right.

Apparently, with an appropriate enabling environment, confidence and consistent human rights stance, as well as the presence of desire on the part of the officials, one can solve problems quickly enough.

The Zhodzina experience shows that the management can meet the individual workers’ claims with no loss of their own authority to notice, admit and correct mistakes in practice, to prevent unjust and discriminatory, abusive practices.

After all, I would still like to know, whether the administration of Zhodzina Bakery have made appropriate changes to Paragraph 1.2 of the “Provisions on bonuses to workers on occasion of holidays and material rewards” to bring this provision in accordance with the appropriate rules of law set forth in the Labor Code of the Republic of Belarus. And whether they have made any necessary changes in the “Amendments and supplements to the collective agreement” of 19.08.2009?

These issues are essential for understanding how the systemic and deep these positive changes in one of Zhodzina enterprises are. And also, to what degree this experience can be an example for other industrial collectives in Zhodzina (such as BelAZ, KZTS, “Svitanak’) and even for the country in general.

Alaksiey Lapitski

Belarusian Legal Portal


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