Aleksandr Lukashenko takes part in 7th Congress of Belarus’ Federation of Trade Unions

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Trade unions were and still are one of the major pillars of the civil society, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the 7th Congress of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB) on 22 May.

“That is why they should be engaged in the immensely important work that our country will have to do in the near future,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked national and industry-specialized regional associations of trade unions, those who nominated and elected him as a delegate at this forum.

In his words, the conference of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus plays a crucial role in the life of the state. It is the biggest and most respectable public organization in the country. It unites more than 90% of the economically active population of Belarus – about 4 million people.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out a huge role of trade unions and said that Belarus has created a clear-cut system for the regulation labor relations. It is based on the general agreement between the government, associations of employers and trade unions. A lot has been done to develop and enhance social partnership at all levels and improve the social protection of workers.

The President reminded that in the recent address to the Belarusian government and people he enumerated the main challenges which our country faced due to the global financial and economic crisis, economic sanctions against Russia and events in Ukraine.

The program of action of the FTUB for 2015-2020 must be concise, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

"You need to focus on the areas that the trade unions supervise today,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Speaking about the situation when the collective bargaining agreement in an organization applies to all employees regardless of trade union membership, the President said: "We will solve this problem to make it just and fair."

The head of state called on the trade unions to protect the rights of first of all those who want to work. “Justice should be the basis of your position. Act fair when there is a lack of laws or regulations," the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the trade unions together with the government to address the issues of retaining jobs. “Yes, it is hard. But we must preserve workforce and give people confidence that their tomorrow will be no worse than yesterday," the head of state said.

With regard to housing issues, Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that the priority here will be given to large families and military men. "The available funds we have today will be allocated into housing construction. When we have more money we will invest more in the construction of new homes," he said.

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko has called for retaining the workforce at enterprises by all means.

“We should retain our workforce whatever it takes,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He noted that Belarus is currently going through a period of difficulties that arise from the crisis affecting its main trading partners. The head of state stressed that by preserving the enterprises and retaining the workforce Belarus survived in the most challenging period of its history, and the experience it gained turned out to be very useful. “I was much criticized for excessive employment, but crises come and go. We should retain the workforce whatever it takes, because otherwise when we enter a period of recovery and our products are again in demand, there will be no people to manufacture them,” the President added.

The social focus of trade unions’ activities is very important, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Trade unions should always prioritize people’s needs and extend a helping hand in any circumstances. Your mission is to address a wide range of issues. You should be in charge of the allocation of kindergarten places and vouchers to recreation camps to the children of workers, develop recuperation programs for employees,” the head of state said.

As an example, Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the situation in Gomel where the trade union takes care of four parentless children raised by a grandmother. “The trade union supports this family and helps it deal with problems,” the head of state noted. “But this is only one family. Perhaps, there are a lot of such families in the country. Find these families and help them. If you do not have funds, the state will always find ways to support these families. We should always extend a helping hand to all children, elderly people,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to promote targeted social projects. The President mentioned a number of charity campaigns to provide assistance to boarding schools and orphanages.

The President urged trade union to pay attention to young specialists and labor veterans. Aleksandr Lukashenko was satisfied with the fact that virtually all teams of workers in Belarus support labor veterans.

The Eastern Partnership should not be directed against anyone. This has always been the position of Belarus, the Belarusian President said.

"The Ukrainian events should have taught us to cherish peace. There is a need to address the main thing, deal with the problem, including in Ukraine and other states. But what are they doing? They have gathered for the Eastern Partnership. And what? In every document they slam Russia either directly or indirectly,” he said.

"We have always been strongly opposed that the Eastern Partnership should be directed against anyone,” he said. “Russia does not participate in the Eastern Partnership. Then why in its absentia we should berate her, including for Crimea and so on? But they want to squeeze this condemnation into the final declaration and speak out against Russia,” he said.

"They are indignant that we did not support this. This is my principled position: the Eastern Partnership, other organizations should not be directed against anyone. We must defend our interests. Why should we be against Russia? Moreover, we were the place of peace on the Ukraine crisis. Leaders of the world powers gathered here to stop the war,” the Belarusian leader said.

"They say, let us be together against Russia. But this is contrary to our internal beliefs and the current state of things. Do not the leading western powers, including France and Germany, see this?" Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.

According to the President, today, when the peace is very fragile, it is a bad idea to try to blame someone. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that at first we should solve the problem, and then figure out who is right and who is guilty. "But they would not. They are trying to drag Belarus into this. We cannot support such a position because the main thing today is not to pin the blame on someone, and we have heard enough accusations already, but to give peace to that country and people,” underlined the Belarusian leader.

"We do not want to get involved into any reckless schemes. We want peace. This is the essence of our policy,” the President said. "It would seem that this war has taught everyone to be very cautious, careful. We need to solve the main problem," the Belarusian head of state said.

Trade unions should provide real protection for the interests of workers, the head of state said when speaking at the Congress of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, BelTA has learned.

"We talk a lot about the role of supervisory boards at enterprises. Trade unions should be involved in the solution of urgent problems as part of these boards. You need to address not only social issues. You should be involved in tackling real challenges such as the monitoring of productivity of labor, condition of work, and also share the responsibility for the results,” the head of state said.

The president believes that the trade unions should actively supervise product quality control, timely payment of wages, and even help search for new markets and reduce the backlogs of inventory. “In no event we wil economize on people. Everything they earn must be paid to them in full and on time. This is what is called the real protection of workers’ interests,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Belarus is always open both to the East and the West, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

According to the head of state, the fact determines Belarus’ principled stance on international affairs, which is manifested as readiness to promote relations across the entire range of promising avenues. “But only on the basis of mutual respect, mutual benefits and equality,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The President pointed out that Belarus had made an absolutely conscientious choice in favor of stepping up the union with Russia and creating the Eurasian Economic Union. Today the country is expanding the geography of cooperation and has secured a new level in comprehensive strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China and other major world players.

“As part of the dialogue with the West we sometimes face biased attitudes and warped judgment. This is why the Federation of Trade Unions should work to bolster Belarus’ positive image abroad. It is necessary to defend our positions and deliver reliable information to the International Labor Organization,” said the Belarusian leader.

“Any attempts to disrupt unity and sow seeds of discord between nations must be opposed right away. You cannot stand aside as observers in this situation,” stressed the Belarusian head of state. “Wars and revolutions destroy everything — economy, security, well-being, and hope for the future, which is the most important thing. We have seen it happen many times in the last few years in close and faraway countries.”

“The fact that in these troubled times we have preserved peace and order in our land, have not allowed anyone to provoke a conflict and explode the country from within is the most important accomplishment,” said the President.

“Active members of trade unions are part of the labor collectives. You work with people every day. And you should tell people the truth: explain real reasons behind hardships, don’t let false information misguide them, carry out a direct and sincere dialogue with the workers,” stressed the head of state.

It is inadmissible to economize on people’s lives and health and it is essential to guarantee occupational safety, the President of Belarus stressed.

“Safe working conditions should be provided everywhere. However, this issue is often neglected due to recklessness and attempts to economize. But it is inadmissible to economize on people’s lives and health,” the head of state emphasized. In his opinion, trade union committees have all legal instruments to keep this issue under control.

The President pointed out the attempts of heads of certain enterprises to keep silent about occupational injuries so that they would not have to pay compensations. In his words, the technical inspectorate of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus revealed 17 such instances. The inspectorate came up with a conclusion that 31 fatal accidents should be considered occupational injuries. The inspectorate made an inquiry into all these incidents. “Such cases are inadmissible! We need to toughen the responsibility of directors for such cases,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The head of state also spoke about alcohol-related problems in the workplace. He noted that the percentage of occupational accidents caused by intoxicated workers is very high. Thus, in 2014 about 150 people died, nearly one fifth of these people were under the influence. “It is not normal! We should join efforts to address this issue. Heads of companies and trade union committees should step up preventive measures and raise collective responsibility,” the President said.

Workers and directors who cover up their colleagues’ mistakes put the lives and health of people in jeopardy, the head of state said.

“Trade unions must be set up in all the enterprises regardless of their form of ownership by the middle of the next year. If the requirement has to be legislated, let’s do it. I don’t say it for the sake of populism,” noted the head of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that the matter had been raised more than once. “I’ve told the head of our trade unions: tell me directly who doesn’t want the establishment of these trade unions, we know how to work with those people,” said the head of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that foreign companies that operate in Belarus have to work for the benefit of the Belarusian nation. “They’d better work with us on good terms. If you come to work in Belarus, you’d better act decently. You cannot bribe big officials in Belarus. You have to understand: if the head of state says that interests of the nation must prevail, then it must be so primarily for the foreigners, who come to Belarus. If you fail to observe a single letter of the law in America, they will kick you out in a completely democratic manner,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“Therefore, by the middle of the next year trade unions should not raise the issue of being unable to set up primary organizations in private companies, joint-stock companies and so on. If you work on Belarusian land, if you employ Belarusian people, then we need an organization to protect these people. Our trade unions should do the job,” stressed the head of state.

The President pointed out that positive experience of such accomplishments is already available in Belarus. In particular, there is one trade union in OAO Amkodor. A primary trade union organization has been created in Belarus’ top retailer Euroopt that employs over 30,000 personnel.

“The private sector of Belarus’ economy always grows. We welcome more foreign investors, joint ventures and branches of foreign corporations are established in Belarus. They employ Belarusians. And the Belarusians have the right to have their interests protected,” believes the Belarusian leader.

According to the President, it is necessary to approach the private sector of the economy from the other side, too: labor laws are often broken there. “In their pursuit of profits heads of some companies fail to pay proper attention to working conditions, corporate amenities, and medical services. They often hinder the establishment of primary trade union organizations, refuse to sign contracts with their workers and instead rely on paying cash off the books. As a result, their employees are deprived of their legal right to social support and guaranteed pensions,” said the head of state.

All the reforms, new decisions and approaches will be primarily aimed at ensuring social justice and providing support to workers, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“The Belarusian model of social and economic development rests on these principles, and we will never give them up,” the President emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that a man of labor will always be in the focus of the Belarusian state policy. The State for the People is not a motto but a call for action, the President stressed. “Our political system that guarantees peace and order, our economic model that gives everybody an opportunity to work and earn a salary have been created for a man of labor. We have developed a solid social system that provides everyone with access to healthcare, education, and housing and a reliable system of social security,” the President said. He emphasized that it will always be so.

The head of state also pointed out that trade unions should monitor the implementation of contractual arrangements. “You should be objective while defending a worker. It is important to maintain the balance of interests of both the employer and the employee,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

It is inadmissible to fire people citing some complicated situations in the economy as the reason, the Belarusian President emphasized.

“Our common top-priority goal is not to let people get fired due to some complicated situations in the economy. The role of trade unions is particularly prominent in this regard,” stressed the Belarus President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the problem of layoffs is topical all over the world today. Interests of employees are sometimes disregarded by employers. People’s lives are often sacrificed in the name of profit and effectiveness.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, trade unions are designed to counterbalance such phenomena. “It is they that act in line with the law to prevent unjustified layoffs. It is understandable that common sense should be used in such situations. New technologies develop rapidly and some jobs become naturally obsolete as machines start performing the functions that people used to perform. But then the released workforce needs new applications,” said the Belarusian head of state.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that helping people find new jobs must be the overriding concern of the executive when they deal with surplus to requirements. People should not be left to deal with their problems on their own. The management of enterprises, trade unions, municipal government agencies should resolve these problems together. “By the way, trade unions could help employment centers retrain the workforce,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. He also noted that trade unions should find their place in interaction with employment centers.

The head of state continued: “The right to labor is one of the fundamental rights of citizens. In independent Belarus we have preserved the right for our people. The fact that the right is specified by the Constitution is not the whole story. The entire social and economic policy in our country is geared towards securing this goal,” said the head of state. “We sometimes did the impossible in order to implement the right in life instead of paper.”

The President said he was convinced that preserving jobs is the permanent key requirement for any executive regardless of whether he or she runs a private business or a state-owned enterprise.

Belarus’ experience of overcoming the economic recession in conditions of the global financial crisis and economic sanctions against Russia was unique, the President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state said: “The Belarusian experience of overcoming the economic recession was in essence unique. Many people were fired in the USA and Western Europe. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs overnight but we survived back then and will manage now.”

According to the President, Belarus is an open-economy country and is heavily influenced by external factors. “At present we are experiencing some difficulties primarily due to the crisis that affects our main trade partners,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. In his words, the problems of the trade partners have invariably affected Belarusian enterprises. “Nevertheless, we have experience of working in such conditions,” said the President.

Securing the competitive ability of Belarusian goods on foreign markets is a number one priority in economy development at present, emphasized the President. Aleksandr Lukashenko said that in the current conditions it is important to increase labor productivity, ensure high quality of merchandise and services, reduce costs, save resources, and increase the personal responsibility and motivation of every employee.

Belarusian products are competitive on the Chinese market, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President spoke about the diversification of Belarusian export. He said that it is important to expand cooperation with China. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the three-day visit of China President Xi Jinping to Belarus was very important. It confirmed the interest of the Chinese side in enhancing interaction with Belarus. Aleksandr Lukashenko and the Chinese leader visited the construction site of the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park.

“The most modern industrial cluster is being built near Minsk. It will unite production facilities of the world’s most advanced companies, and not only Chinese companies. The industrial park will manufacture new-generation products. Companies of the park will not produce out-of-date goods,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Xi Jinping was informed about the progress in the implementation of the construction project and instructed representatives of all Chinese companies present at the meeting to join the project.

The head of state also said that certain neighboring countries are envious about this new project which has huge prospects.

“We have dispelled all doubts. It was a right decision to launch the project,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The President emphasized: “China paid attention to Belarus and promised to buy Belarusian products which are competitive on the Chinese market. This fact proves that Belarus continues to diversify export.”

Belarus is eager to penetrate new sales markets, including in Asia, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President emphasized that Belarus cannot do without the diversification of export and new sales markets. “Yes, Russia is a fraternal and close country. But we cannot depend on one market. We should gain a foothold on many markets to enhance our economic security,” Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced.

The head of state reminded about his recent visit to Georgia and the recent state visit of President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping to Belarus, about the forthcoming visit of the President of India to Minsk.

The head of state also said that he will pay a visit to Pakistan in the near future. The delegation will discuss the sales of Belarusian products and other avenues of bilateral cooperation.