In early December of last year the President signed Ordinance No. 9 “On additional measures to develop woodworking industry” which, according to human rights activists, establish an order on the usage of forced labour.
We remind you that now in the period of the implementation of investment projects an employee of a woodworking enterprise can retire only with the consent of his employer. The employer’s refusal to terminate an employment agreement may be appealed against to the Chairman of the District Executive Committee or Minsk City Executive Committee. Employees get monthly payments in addition to their salaries. These innovations have already caused sharp criticism.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee prepared a legal analysis of the Ordinance and directed it to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Economic Court, the Council of Ministers, the both Houses of Parliament and the President with a request to send this Ordinance to the Constitutional Court. Only these bodies may initiate a constitutionality test of the Ordinance and its variation in accordance with international law acts ratified by Belarus.
Here are several important things from the BHP’s analysis of the Ordinance No. 9.
"A careful study of the provisions of the Ordinance has shown that they contravene the Constitution, the laws adopted on its basis, the international treaties of the Republic of Belarus, and it was adopted with excess of authority of the President."
"... in accordance with Part 2 Article 101 of the Constitution, the President has no right to issue ordinances aimed at restricting the rights and freedoms of citizens."
"... the title of the Ordinance and the content of its enacting clause indicate that its provisions are used as a method of mobilizing and using labour force for purposes of economic development, as well as a means of labour discipline in the woodworking industry. And this is forbidden by the ILO Convention (International Labour Organization) № 105."
"... monthly payments, not included in the salary, are to be unconditionally returned, which is not limited to specific time periods and amounts. For example, an employee had worked in good faith at a wood-processing factory for 3 years, then he had absence without leave and his employer dismissed him. According to the requirements of Ordinance No. 9, the employee must return the full amount of monthly payments over a 3 year period, which may be in the equivalent of about U.S. $ 7,000."
The whole legal analysis can be found here. (Sorry, the document is available only in Russian.)
*The National Human Rights Public Association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee”. In this and other texts as BHC and Belarusian Helsinki Committee.