Evaluation of protest potential in labour collectives
Workers’ protests are mostly chaotic and disorganised. However, until last autumn there was little to say about workers’ protests at state enterprises.
At present, the potential of Belarusian workers to protest is low in most regions of the country. At the same time, preconditions for instability remain and there is a risk of developing a negative scenario for the government. The population is overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the current economic situation, low salaries, absence of action by state trade unions, and the violation of employment law by employers.
However, sporadic workers’ protests have not yet become a trend and authorities are able to stop them by making concessions to the employees’ requirements. The authorities on the one hand are willing to pay certain financial costs as a result of dialogue with workers. On the other hand, companies dismiss workers who can potentially organise protests. A relative calm among workers is explained by a slight growth of wages (especially at major enterprises), although pre-crisis levels have not been reached. In addition, people are adapting to the decrease in income.
Despite a seemingly stable situation, there are enterprises which might be a cause of conflicts and troubles in every region, such as in the Borisov district in the Minsk region. The situation also remains tense at a strategic enterprise “Granit” in Mikashevichi in the Brest region. The employees who had quit the official trade union are still attempting to obtain a legal address to register a primary organisation of an independent trade union.
It is likely that in the case of another wave of crisis, workers’ protests will become more numerous and massive in comparison to 2011.
To give the whole story, it should be added that a distinctive feature of the protests by labour collectives is their exclusively economic character (they demand pay rises). Most workers are not preoccupied with the lack of democratic freedoms, they are more concerned for their own and their company’s welfare. This is the reason why attempts by the opposition to carry out propaganda campaigns at enterprises are in most cases ineffective.