Workers of Polotsk-Steklovolokno factory, a manufacturer of glass fiber, have to work in extreme conditions.
“If the temperature outside is +30 during day hours, it can reach +40 even at night at working places in shop No. 7,” says Viktar Stukau, the leader of the factory's branch of the Free Trade Union.
Viktar Stukau says that in accordance with sanitary rules, workers can refuse to work for safety reasons if the temperature is higher than +33°С.
“Article 9 of the law on Labour Protection and article 223 of the Labour Code say a worker has the right to suspend working in a life-threatening situation until the dangerous situation is improved. Unfortunately, workers do not use their right. The large official Belarusian Chemical Trade Union closes its eyes to the situation and does not help workers defend their right to decent working conditions. Workers have cramps and chills, the symptoms of heat illness. I know a man who had these symptoms, but he only took medicines from the first aid box and continued working instead of going to the factory health centre,” he says.
Viktar Stukau says air conditioning worked in shop No. 7 30 years ago. It was Soviet equipment that consumed much energy, but it cooled water for the conditioning system to 7°С. The temperature was cool in the corridors and reached 28°С in hot shops. The air conditioning system was replaced by a new one, but the factory administration either does not know how to use it or doesn't use it to save money.
Viktar Stukau receives information about working conditions directly from workers. He doesn't work at Steklovolokno after having been fired in 2013 allegedly for violating safety rules. He has problems with visiting the factory. In June 2014, Stukau, the head of the branch of the Belarusian Free Trade Union, planned to visit shops No. 7 and No. 12 to check complaints about high temperature. He informed the general director about the visit, but entry to the factory was denied for him personally.