Yet another ‘Doing Business’ government

Yet another ‘Doing Business’ government
Zdravko Saveski

The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has appeared! It really has! It took it a year to submit amendments to the Labor Code. But that would not have been such a problem, if they had used this year to propose substantial changes that would abolish the redistribution of labor rights of the previous government. Instead, almost all proposed changes are either minor or cosmetic. And there are cuts in workers' rights! Someone will say, although there were no changes to the Law on Labor Relations, they changed the Law on Minimum Wage. Yes, they changed that law, but in such a way that, through the standardized performance, they created another opportunity not to pay the minimum wage in practice. The minimum wage can be up to 20,000 denars on paper, but if that is not respected in practice, it does not mean much. Fortunately, the Constitutional Court recently accepted the complaints of Levica and the Federation of Trade Unions, and abolished the normative performance. So now the bosses are a little bit upset and ask the government not to respect the Constitutional Court's decision and restore the norm. The audacity! Such disrespect of the Constitutional Court!

But let's go back to the draft amendments to the Law on Labor Relations. This law, the most important for workers' rights, in the previous quarter of the past century, the VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM governors also set it up that there are few real rights for the workers in it. It is more a law for the rights of employers than for workers' rights! The new government, in its own work programme, announced the adoption of a new Labor Law dedicated to providing real protection for workers. Where is this new law? Yes - it is postponing its adoption for 2019, after it will be postponed to 2020, and if they are finally ready to bring it, it will certainly bring some minor improvements to certain rights accompanied by large reductions in other, more substantial labor rights. This power, like the previous ones, is a power that serves the interests of large capital. Yet again, there is not one MP in the Assembly, who represents the workers' interests. In such a situation, there will only empty words and promises. It would be such a shame for us if we allow it. Once again, I don’t know how many times!

In the draft amendments there is nothing from the announcement in the Government's Work Programme that fixed-term contracts will be transformed into employment for an indefinite period of six months, and not as it is now, after five years. There is nothing about the much-announced gender-sensitive maternity leave. Why are these measures, contained in the Government's Work Programme, not part of the proposed changes to the Labor Code? The government is obliged to answer this question. Will the MPs in the Parliament dare to ask it? Or will they stay silent, just as Gruevski's deputies were?

Already in the explanation of the proposed changes, the "new" government showed that it was identical to the previous one. One of the main motivations for the proposed changes was the Doing Business report. Well Gruevski had the same motivation, whenever he dropped workers' rights! In order to improve the ranking of Macedonia on this list - the employee will pay the cost. Gruevski was thinking the same way, just as Zaev and Angjusev are thinking now. In order to rank higher, they now want to reduce the length of the job advertisement from five to three days. Not even Gruevski dared to meddle with it! But Zaev and Angjusev would do it for a higher ranking.

Of the other changes, the change proposed in relation to child labor is especially revolting. Instead of restoring the ban on child labor, which was abolished by Gruevski, what is proposed is instead of four hours a day, child labor lasts two hours a day, but during a school holiday it can take six hours a day. So do you imagine the improvement of workers' rights, raising the limit of engaging child labor!?

In the line of positive changes is the increase in the salaries of the apprentices from 40 to 70% of the basic salary at the workplace for which they are trained. Positive reduction of the length of the probationary work, from six to four months, as well as the return of the previous level of deadlines for termination of the dismissal. But this is not enough for an authority that claims to be social-democratic! These improvements bring nothing substantial.

The proposals for redundancy rights bring no substantial changes as well, with which the government will surely boast, as something great that it has achieved. They will raise the severance pay. For instance, for over 25 years of service, they amount to seven instead of six salaries. But let’s contextualize this improvement. SDSM, and not VMRO-DPMNE, was the party that in 2005 reduced the highest amount of severance pay from eight to six salaries. Why did SDSM not return the level of severance pay to the level it was before they were reduced? They are obliged to change those provisions that they precisely reduced rights. The same applies to the proposal to restore the priority for employment for those workers who have lost their jobs due to redundancy, when the boss wants to re-hire an employee at that workplace. Before VMRO-DPMNE abolished this right, in 2005 SDSM reduced the length of the priority for employment from two to one year. Therefore, with the proposal to restore priority in the employment of two years, SDSM corrects its own reduction of rights on this basis, and does not introduce a new right.

The lack of willingness to engage in the return of lost workers' rights in a more substantial manner is testified by changes in terms of night work and annual leave. And with regard to both issues, the proposals are cosmetic. In the night work, there is no suggestion to restore its limitation to a maximum of one week. VMRO-DPMNE abolished this restriction in 2008. So now the worker can legally be forced to work only in the night shift for a whole year. Obviously, there is nothing disputable about SDSM! Regarding the annual holiday, SDSM proposes only a change in the formulation in the law. According to the current formulation, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with the utilization of 12 working days of annual leave by the end of the current calendar year. With these changes, it is proposed instead of "12 working days" to include "two uninterrupted working weeks". And what do we do about the fact that VMRO-DPMNE prescribed any part of the annual leave, and not the first part, to have a length of 12 working days, what we do about the fact that the right to a full annual vacation is now obtained by continuous work of six months only with the same employer, what do we do with the opening possibility of the annual vacation lasting less than 26 working days? SDSM did not find such a more substantial reduction in the labor rights of VMRO-DPMNE to propose an amendment. It did not find it appropriate to propose any more substantial increase in the rights, such as, for example, the payment of the earned salary to be made until the fifth, and not until the fifteenth day of the following month.

As it can be noted, the draft-amendments to the Labor Code do not contain any major step forward in favor of labor rights. On the contrary, they contain reductions of rights! These amendments are another indicator that this is not a government that works in the interests of ordinary people, but a government that works in the interest of capital. But as long as a business party comes in the place of another business party, this is how it’s going to be: they sell empty promises, while we barely make ends meet.

 

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