Social tensions in the workforce have not decreased
On April 1st, workers at Vitebsk House-Building construction company refused to go to work due to wage delays.
Tensions in the workforce remain high and threaten with social unrest if wages are not paid in time. Workers confine to social protests and enterprises’ management endeavors to meet their demands in shortest time.
The social situation in the workforce in Belarus remains tense. The case in Vitebsk shows that the situation has not changed principally since 2011 crisis, when first strikes in labour collectives started in Belarus. Today and back then workers behave in the same way: if wages are delayed, they refuse going to work until the wages are paid.
Enterprises’ management behaviour is also typical. Trying to prevent unrests, directors quickly pay out wages in full or partially. In particular, Vitebsk House-Building pant management paid 50% salary to the workers and promised to pay the rest within a week. To resolve the conflict, representative of the Architecture and Construction Ministry specially visited the enterprise.
Thus, despite a 20% increase in real wages in 2012, the nature of social protests points to still low living standards of Belarusians, and to that the socio-economic situation has not principally changed since 2011. This trend is more visible in the regions: for instance, Vitebsk region was second from the bottom in the country by the average monthly wage in February 2013.
As in 2011, the local authorities take speedy actions to ‘pacify’ the labour collectives financially. However, there is no trust between workers, enterprises’ management and the local authorities, which implies that even short-term wage delays will immediately result in a surge of protests in the future. Such protests will have social, not political nature, because Belarus’ political forces do not take advantage of such strikes – neither in 2011, nor in 2013.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.