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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.