Social tensions remain at enterprises
On 13 July, at the plant of the house-building company \"Grodnozhilstroy\" in Grodno, the workers of several workshops refused to start work and demanded wage rises.
Compared to last year, the wage threshold of social protest has increased, and employees show high concordance in their actions. All strikes are successful so far, and they show employees a quick and effective way to pressure on the management of enterprises and local authorities, which only enhances the readiness for new social protests.
Despite the growth of the national average wage of public sector employees, the wages in some enterprises remain significantly lower.
For example, in May the average monthly wage in Belarus was BYR 3,58 million (approx 440 USD) against BYR 3,29 million (approx 400) in April. However, according to the testimonies of strikers of the “Grodnozhilstroy \", in April, they received BYR 2,5 million approx 310 USD) and in May, 3.2 million (approx 395 USD) (an increase was due to a one-time premium payment, but not due to the growth of the wage as such).
It should be noted that the strike of workers in Grodno was precautionary in character. The employees - only about 200 people – have managed to reach an agreement with the leadership that there would be a wage increase next month and thereafter on the same day they went to work. It is expected that the management of enterprise and the local authorities will take necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of the incident.
Nevertheless, this case is illustrative for several reasons. First, it points to a previously marked willingness of employees to actively protest and defend their right to decent pay. Second, the protests demonstrate a high level of organization: typically a strike begins immediately after the payment date, if it turns out that the wage paid did not satisfy the workers.
Third, there has been observed an increase of wage threshold of social unrest in enterprises. If last year the first strike began in a labour collective, in which the wage accounted for about BYR 1,2 million (approx 150 USD), today this figure has almost doubled.
All these features of work protests suggest that the strategy of the Belarusian authorities to increase the incomes of citizens continues to be carried out in a highly unstable situation. On the one hand, a delay in pay rises turns into strikes with high probability. In turn, all strikes are carried out successfully so far and they show employees a quick and effective way to pressurize the management of enterprises and the local authorities, which only enhances the readiness for new social protests.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.