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 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.