Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President, Bars State Workers From Quitting Jobs

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus president

By Yuras Karmanau

BORISOV, Belarus -- Vladimir Dodonov wants to flee Belarus for neighboring Russia before it becomes illegal to leave his job at a wood-processing plant.

Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has decided to stem an exodus of qualified workers to Russia, starting by banning those who work in wood-processing industries from quitting. Critics have compared the measure to serfdom and warned that it would only deepen the former Soviet republic's economic troubles and fuel protests against Lukashenko.

Dodonov, 37, who earns the equivalent of $140 a month at the Borisovdrev plant, says he could make several times as much in Russia and would have left earlier if he hadn't had to care for his ailing mother. "How can you survive on such a miserable salary?" he said this week. "Naturally, I'm thinking about leaving for Russia before they turn me into a slave."

It could be too late.

"You will be sentenced to compulsory labor and sent back here if you leave," Lukashenko warned Friday during a visit to the plant, located in the industrial city of Borisov, about 70 kilometers (some 45 miles) east of the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The president said his decree would apply to more than 13,000 employees of nine state-run wood-processing plants and 2,000-3,000 construction workers involved in modernizing them. Lukashenko said on a visit to the plant that his decree would become effective on Dec. 1. Even though he hasn't signed it yet, Borisovdrev workers who tried to quit this week were barred from doing so by the administration under various pretexts.

More: Obama Signs Whistle-Blower Protection Law

Lukashenko promised to raise an average worker's salary at the plant from the current $150 a month to $400-$500, roughly what it would be in Russia. He pledged to increase it further to $1,000 by 2015, but some of the workers were skeptical.

"My children want to eat now without waiting for 2015," said Nikolai Khmelevsky, 42, who currently earns about $200 a month at the Borisovdrev plant. "I have been looking for another job, and now they will tie me here."

Managers at the Borisovdrev plant, a set of grim-looking Soviet-era buildings, refused to comment. The plant and other wood-processing plants are part of a concern that is 100 percent owned by the state, as are most Belarusian industries. The wood-processing plants export most of their output to Russia and Europe.

Nikolai Pokhabov, the leader of an independent union in Borisov, warned that Lukashenko's order could spark protests. "The government is trying to solve problems with a stick at the workers' expense," the union leader said. "But it fails to understand that threats and reliance on the stick will only push workers to flee the country or stage protests."

More: 8 Ways Employers Can Discriminate Against Workers -- Legally

Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent Minsk-based analyst, said that Lukashenko may later try to expand the measure to other sectors of the economy. "Amid a severe economic crisis, Lukashenko is launching a risky experiment that could later be spread to the entire economy," Klaskovsky said. "It amounts to Lukashenko introducing elements of slavery in 21st century Europe."

About one million people in the nation of 10 million are estimated to be working abroad, most of them in neighboring Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania. One of the ironies of the situation is that Russia, which is seen as a prized destination by Belarusian workers, itself prevented its people from working abroad during Soviet times, through tight restrictions on exit visas.

A pariah in the West, Lukashenko also often has tense relations with Moscow, which has been angered by his resistance to yielding control over Belarusian industries to Russian business. Lukashenko has kept most of the economy in state hands, but he is dependent on cheap energy and loans provided by Russia.

Last year, Belarus saw a sharp devaluation of its currency and inflation exceeding 100 percent after Lukashenko raised public sector wages in a populist move to ensure his re-election.

Lukashenko has managed to quell the public discontent thanks to new loans from Russia, but analysts warn that the country of 10 million may soon drift into a new crisis as it faces mounting foreign debt payments. Russia may not be eager to provide more aid or make it contingent on Lukashenko surrendering control over more economic assets.

"The Soviet-style economy has exhausted its resources and the Kremlin has become increasingly reluctant to issue loans," said Yaroslav Romanchuk, the head of Mises Research Center in Minsk. "Lukashenko has to invent abnormal motives in the absence of regular economic mechanisms."

Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now

More From AOL Jobs

Looking for a job? Click here to get started.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

europe has always mistreated their people and have always made their people suffer.

December 07 2012 at 6:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Times like these,if everyone left everyone else country what would get done?It takes a strong willed patriot to get your country back on its feet regardless the sacrifice.That being said If right here in US theses morons keep inflating gas prices and taxing us through the roof,we can still be patriots just looking to pursue happiness elsewhere.

December 07 2012 at 3:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't tell Obama this, He'll have his left-nut wing zars instituting this policy in socialist America!!

December 06 2012 at 11:48 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to goeurope's comment

It will never happen. He wants the others in this country to support them instead.

December 07 2012 at 1:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Belarus ! Shares a common border with YOCKMALA and is touching the southern tip of SMIRNOKOLOFF ! What a great little iron curtain country to film the next MISION IMPOSSIBLE in ! OR ? The U.N . can condem them then send soldiers in ! Always ours of course ! WHO CARES ! WE have enough problemss of our own !

December 06 2012 at 11:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Since under collectivism (socialism or communism) the government owns the means of production, slavery makes perfect dialectical sense: the workers are an essential component of the means of production. Mind you, I said it makes sense, not that it is a good thing, which it is not.

December 06 2012 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Directly out of Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand was way ahead of her times in thinking. Government taking over everything (manufacturing, transportation, et. al.); anything designed or invented belongs to the government. You can't quit your job; but there's no reason to, because there are no other jobs. Sounds like current day Presidency. Punish the successful for developing businesses that create jobs for those who aren't smart enough or who have the initiative. Take money from the successful and give to those who are too lazy to think, or get a job. If the Dems think more taxes are the way, why aren't they contributing excess to the IRS without being asked? Pelosi is worth $63 Million; you think she could contribute an extra $1 M without feeling it.

December 06 2012 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to jweiner's comment
Pearl Nestor

Wow, they got liberal's over there too who don't believe in freedom.

December 06 2012 at 10:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pearl Nestor's comment

Any Liberal would know how to pluralize a word. Why are all you rednecks so illiterate.? Next time you post, get help from an educated Liberal.

December 06 2012 at 11:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
no7mk1 ammo now!!!'s coming here sooner than you think....

December 06 2012 at 7:55 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

That could happen here now with this marxist bunch. The wealth leaving and People leaving to find work. Oh wait that was sorros plan all along wasn't it? To destroy America?

December 06 2012 at 5:54 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ROBINHOOD's comment

Trump, is that you? You need new hair.

December 06 2012 at 7:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mark Lathom

New World Order, coming to a country near you!

December 06 2012 at 7:48 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The mans an idiot , Most people who leave for economic reasons send money back home.

December 06 2012 at 5:15 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web