Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Labor minister denies workers' opposition to Lukashenka's restrictive decree

Labor Minister Maryyana Shchotkina denied on Monday that employees of Belarus' woodworking enterprises raised any objections to Alyaksandr Lukashenka's decree that restricted their right to quit their jobs.

Under the December 7 decree, employees may not leave woodworking plants without the employer's permission before the expiry of their labor contract.

The decree was signed one week after the Belarusian leader warned that he would ban workers from leaving the country's woodworking plants until the completion of their modernization. "A modernized company means efficient performance, high pay," Ms. Shchotkina told reporters.

"I believe today all have turned around and started analyzing the progress of their investment projects. I think we must live in the situation that exists now."

The minister emphasized the importance of modernization projects to the economy. According to her, there are always two sides to every story and "journalists can portray the situation in different ways."

Ms. Shchotkina disagreed with experts who criticize the decree for reintroducing "serfdom." "These smart guys should read what serfdom is and stop using such words," she said.

On December 17, the House of Representatives "took note" of the decree.