Will government give in to striking entrepreneurs?

“The only thing we are fighting for is to revoke paragraph 1.1 in the president’s decree No 760! You are doing nothing! You are forcing people to resort to extreme measures. This should not be this way!”

On December 19, entrepreneurs at major trade centers in Minsk walked out on a one-day strike. Vendors at other market places also joined the action.

Businessman Ales Makayeu says vendors also went on strike at his market place in the city of Barysau, Minsk region.

“Parking and Mirror centers are 100 percent closed. At 0900 today, 90 percent of shops were closed at the Zhdanovichy trade center. Only 10 percent of vendors showed up at work at my market of building materials”.

The president’s decree No 760 comes into effect on January 1, 2008. It bans sole entrepreneurs from hiring other people than close relatives and family members as their employees.

A group of entrepreneurs were scheduled to meet today with MP Anatol Paulovich who chairs the Industry Committee at the House of Representatives. However, the negotiations did not take place, because almost all of those entrepreneurs who made the appointment were sentenced to 15 or 10 days of arrest following there protest on December 10.

“There will be no meeting today. There will be no negotiations till even one person still remains in jail”, says Ales Makayeu.

The European Radio for Belarus visited the Parking trade center where strikers had a conversation with Alexander Kalinouski, the chief of entrepreneurship department at the Minsk City Hall.

“There are 60,000 entrepreneurs across Belarus that have hired workers. 11500 have re-registered into private unitary enterprises. It means one in six does need this decree. Why are you saying that nobody needs this decree?” asked Alexander Kalinouski.

A female vendor: “The decree bans hired workers. What if I get sick? The market’s administration will immediately throw me out of here. This should not remain closed”.

Kalinouski: “Why not? I can see it being close now”.

Entrepreneurs: “No way, no way!”

Going on strike for one day, entrepreneurs are taking a huge risk.

“Rental fees and taxes amount at an average of $50 per day. My employer today closed three outlets. It means that today she was $150 in the red”, vendor Volha says.

Authorities do not seem to give in to the demands from entrepreneurs.
“Nobody is going to revoke this paragraph 1.1.”, says Yauhen Syamyonau, the deputy chairman of the entrepreneurs department at the Minsk City Hall.

Entrepreneur Katsyaryna Chyzhyk who was the only one to seek an appointment with Lukashenka over the matter still hopes that their strikes will bring about changes. She feels proud about her fellow colleagues.

“Well done! I feel proud. At the working group, we proposed to file our demands. But it doesn’t mean that the authorities will revoke this paragraph. However, I still hope, because hope dies the last”.

Strikers will resume work tomorrow. They have just over one week remaining before the New Year when they will see themselves jobless.