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.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.