There are more than 3000 vacancies in Hrodna as of March 2023. However, some Hrodna residents can’t get a job in state organizations, despite the commendations at the previous place of work and absence of disciplinary penalties. The reason for this is blacklists, in which employees got into because of their detention at protests or their position.
According to the data of the employment service, there are 3446 vacancies in Hrodna. They are looking for 127 doctors and 116 nurses. In the region the figures are 717 and 278 medical workers. 47 employees are invited to «Hrodna Azot», 27 — to Hrodna glassworks. There are vacancies for 13,000 people in Hrodna region. Some of them have been open since last year. The region lacks 64 teachers and 52 lecturers.
Belarus is rapidly losing workers — in 2022, the number of people employed in the Belarusan economy has updated historical lows several times. The figure for November 2022 amounted to — 4.2 million, reports the «Center for New Ideas».
«Don't want an employee who’s 'unmasked'»
From 2020, heads of state bodies and organizations are obliged to request references from previous jobs when hiring employees. It should reflect professional, moral and business qualities of a specialist, as well as information on whether the person has been brought to disciplinary and other responsibility. Among other things, it is necessary to describe the «attitude to state and public institutions,» reports portal 1prof.by. The head who signed it will be punished for an inaccurate characterization — up to criminal liability.
«I don’t need an employee who is „flagged“, I don’t need any problems,» — this is the wording with which Hrodna resident Aliaksandr (name changed) is denied employment. Aliaksandr is over 50. He found out that he was blacklisted a year and a half after he was fired. Then he was fired from his previous job at one of Hrodna state enterprises. The man worked as a builder.
According to him, his superiors received a paper that he had been detained during the protests in August 2020. The bosses «realized that this worker should be fired». The reason for the dismissal was that he was allegedly unreliable. Aliaksandr has not seen this paper himself. He also does not know where it came from. Aliaksandr heard that there were similar dismissal lists for his other colleagues, but he had not seen them.
According to Aliaksandr, he was considered a good worker, he did not receive reprimands. After his dismissal, it was not possible to find a job in state institutions. Aliaksandr worked for a private company for a year. After that he quit because he was «poorly paid».
The search for a job began anew. When he found a new job, his bosses called his previous job to find out the reason for his dismissal. «They said that they would indicate this reason [detention] in the characterization. They can’t just not specify it…,» Aliaksandr told Hrodna.life.
He plans to look for work in the private sector. He does not consider emigration.
Private organizations are not obliged to request a characteristic when hiring, but they can do it. In practice, employees with administrative penalties have difficulties cooperating with private organizations as well.
The country is losing workers
— I was fired and was not allowed to work anywhere, — Maya Terekulova, a medic who emigrated from Belarus, told the project «We Will Return». — As they say: «If you leave, you’ll be scrubbing toilets there. So, in principle, I had the same alternative in Belarus. I have a diploma of a doctor, I have a diploma of a nurse. Even as a nurse I would not get a job in any state health care institution. I had more than 15 refusals of employment.
According to the survey, conducted in 2022 by the analytical center «Center for New Ideas,» primarily well-off people with education intend to leave Belarus. Minsk residents are going to leave, as well as residents of regional centers, Zerkalo.io writes. Highly qualified specialists, both intellectuals and workers, are leaving the country.
Those who remain are forced to go to a private employers or live on part-time work. Alyona decided to work part-time. She lives in one of the regional towns of Hrodna region and worked in an educational institution.
In 2020 Alyona did not agree with the election fraud. Six months later, she started to be pressured. She was reprimanded and her competence was questioned. Soon her contract was not renewed, not allowing her to work until the end of the school year. Alyona was told that she was on the KGB list.
Alyona managed to get a job in another state institution. But its head was summoned to the KGB and forced to fire Alyona, despite the fact that both the head and the staff appreciated her. Further ways to get a job began with a question about what happened at the previous one. After that she was rejected.
«Signed it without question»
«A representative from the KGB, which supervises our department, came to see the chief. He came in periodically for some issues. He came in and left after 10 minutes. Five minutes later they called me in», — said Hrodna resident Mikalai, who was fired from a state institution. Earlier, his superior institution was «checked for loyalty».
«Somewhere some information on me crawled out. And so, it turns out, for the boss and the organization is rediculous that he said that in these conditions we can not work together. If he does not react in any way, there will be big problems for him — and subsequently for me. If we don’t part amicably now, a „folder“ on me exist, which can be added to with a slight movement. And the circumstances for dismissal under the article will be found quickly».
Mikalai was not surprised and, briefly thinking, agreed to write an application for dismissal by his own will. It was useless to argue, he thought. He realized that they could «dig up» on him. He also decided not to spoil relations with the management. Mikalai was fired within a few days. He wanted to finish his work and work until the end of the month. But the boss said that the situation was urgent.
He tried to find out for what reason he was considered «disloyal». The employer said that the reason was support for Ukraine and participation in the 2020 rallies. Where this information came from, Mikalai was not told. «I was told: it is there, if necessary to confirm, will bring in a folder. But then we will not part amicably and I will be fired under the article with aggravating consequences — both for him and for me». Before that, colleagues sometimes reported to the management on some of Mikalai’s «red-hot» posts and stories. He talked to his superiors and closed the social networks — the issue was over.
«For me, work was not that valuable. I was not in a high position. In the long run, I could have been a civil servant. I would have had a higher salary. I would have been more appreciative of it and the experience I gained. It would have motivated me to clean up everything I could for a year and a half and not show my opinion about what was going on in Belarus and Ukraine. But I didn’t do it. I was ready deep down, so I signed it without any questions. The head had something to lose — he covered himself and was afraid, scared after the arrival of a special services officer», — said Mikalai.
He was considered to be a promising employee with experience in his field, says the Hrodna resident. Professionally, there were no questions to him. But Mikalai was quite replaceable, he believes. For the time being his position was not closed — his duties were distributed among other employees.
Mikalai decided to return to the sphere he was engaged in before his previous job. Some organizations knew him as a specialist and were waiting for him — there was a lot of work. «But everything hinged on the characterization, which in the end was written very vaguely. After a call with my former boss, the ideologist of the potential job decided that I was ideologically unreliable. My person was not approved. And I realized that the road to state enterprises with such an approach was closed to me», — Mikalai believes.
Where else in Hrodna were there blacklists?
— «Hrodnaenergo». The management calls people from the list to the office, where they have a conversation, following the results of which the person has to resign by mutual agreement of the parties. If a person refuses, they are threatened with dismissal by article. Also, «unreliable» citizens do not have their contracts extended, reports «Nasha Niva».
— At «Hrodna Azot» back in late 2021, people who were involved in the initiative groups of alternative candidates were «asked» to leave their jobs. Both ordinary plant employees working in the shops and experienced specialists from administrative buildings were dismissed for their political stance.
— Belarusian Railroad — the management suffered, refusing to dismiss employees.
— Sphere of culture: theaters, galleries.
Blacklists and graylists
The lists for dismissal are allegedly with the deputy directors of institutions for ideological work. The dismissed people say that the KGB compiles the lists. There are lists of those who are enough to have a preventive conversation with, and there are lists for dismissal. The police can also ask for dismissal.
The reasons were collected by the human rights organization «Viasna».
- the fact of prosecution under administrative article 24.23 of the CAO;
- conviction under the criminal «protest» article;
- the presence of a citizen’s signature and personal data on the lists for supporting some alternative presidential candidates during the 2020 presidential campaign;
- participation in the observation of the presidential election;
- activity in social networks, chat rooms, presence of unwanted comments, photos from protest actions.
The lists are divided into «black» and «gray» lists, Maya Terekulova told. If an employee is on the gray list, he or she can still be hired. If in black, they can’t.
«Almost every enterprise has lists, according to which the heads of enterprises should fire their unreliable workers, — commented Elena Masliukova from the Human Rights Center «Viasna» to «Current Time». — The lists, the ones I know, are handwritten. The mid-level managers did not receive written orders about the dismissals: the verbal orders were something like this: do what you want, but this person must be fired.
An employee can also be dismissed for administrative arrest which is considered to be absenteeism at work. In 2021, amendments to the Labor Code came into force, according to which an employer may terminate employment relations with an employee ahead of schedule if he or she has been subjected to administrative arrest, due to which he or she was unable to perform his or her labor duties.
Another reason may be signatures on open letters or recorded anti-violence videos. As a rule, the employee is offered termination by agreement or non-renewal of the contract. Otherwise, he or she will be dismissed under one of the articles of the Labor Code. Sometimes the employer creates such working conditions that the employee himself leaves. That is, legal grounds are used to disguise real pressure.
Employees after dismissal talk about a folder allegedly containing a dossier on them. The Free Trade Union recommended that employees should not agree to dismissal by mutual agreement. And in case of dismissal to go to court to document the fact of discrimination.
«People in „narrow“ professions can faced problems»
Such processes are taking place throughout the country, economist Leu Lvouski told Hrodna.life. In Belarus, the number of labor market participants is decreasing every year. This happens mainly due to natural reasons — numerous generations retire, and they are replaced in the labor market by a relatively small generation, born in the 90s and early 00s. But in 2022, the natural factor will be supplemented by a migration factor. Judging by some indirect data, the wave of emigration from Belarus in 2022 was greater than in 2020 and 2021, says the expert.
The consequences of these actions will support the current trends. Some people will be forced out of the country. The employers will have to hunt for less competent personnel, who claim higher salaries.
The shortage of labor in the private sector is as acute as in the public sector. Therefore, those people whose skills are suitable for the private sector are likely to find good jobs. People of narrow professions may face problems. There are practically no private schools in Belarus now, there are constant attacks on private medicine, engineers of narrow profile may be not so much in demand in alternative industries that do not deal with their specifics.
— In the past, the IT sector has always been one of the life rafts in Belarus — it was not very difficult to retrain for some of the «IT» specialties, and a person who left the previous place of work quickly obtained the skills and qualifications in demand. But since the beginning of the war, the Belarusian IT sector has also started to shrink, layoffs exceed hiring, and the search for junior employees — exactly those who have recently decided to change their profession — is practically stopped, — the economist believes.
Where is this going to lead?
The resumption of the practice of «ban on profession» in independent Belarus became a form of struggle against political opposition and dissent in the emerging authoritarian system, say the authors in the study of the Center for European Transformation. In addition to dismissals, one can speak about non-certification, non-competition for academic workers, deprivation of titles and ranks, deprivation of work due to obstacles in business and liquidation of NGOs.
The situation leads to staff starvation and devastation of the economy. This is most noticeable in education, medicine, culture, media and other fields. There is a question of qualification of those who remain. More often than not, public activity and position are associated with initiative, high qualifications and professional ambitions. Dismissals hit the most qualified personnel. All this has a negative impact on the economy, including due to a sharp decline in the purchasing power of those who have lost their jobs.
The situation changes the structure of society. It leaves no space for the disloyal, who are forced to leave, often with their families. As a result of the «purges», an oppressive atmosphere is created in labor collectives, in which professional self-expression and development are replaced by the attitude of loyalty.
Nikolay went to work for a private company: «I completely changed my sphere of activity. I’m doing things that are more applied, more enjoyable, and more promising. I am finally, with a clear conscience, doing what I like, what I had been putting off before. I am learning new specialties that give me pleasure.
Mikalai changed «white-collar» to a robe and works hard physically. But he does not call it a demotion. The young man does not consider emigration yet. His specialty with Belarusian experience is not very much in demand in the West. But the experience he is gaining now will be useful for him both in Belarus and in other countries.