Poland: Developments in working life – Q1 2016

The re-emergence of conflict in the coal-mining sector, noticeable pay pressure, significant changes to labour law and the new child benefit are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Poland in the first quarter of 2016.

Unrest in coal mining sector

In the first quarter of 2016, Poland’s industrial relations remained stable despite a tense political climate. However, some unrest was seen, particularly in Silesia, where the conflict in the coal-mining sector which first emerged last year resurfaced after a short period of calm.

Labour law changes

The area which experienced the greatest dynamic change was arguably labour law, not only in terms of legislative process but also in terms of public debate, government initiatives and the social dialogue surrounding potential modifications to the institutional environment of the labour market and employment.

In late February, amendments to the Labour Code to curb the excessive use of fixed-term contracts came into force (six months after they were formally enacted), ending a long battle in which, in 2012, the European Commission had also become involved.

The Presidential draft reinstating the former retirement age of 65 (for men) and 60 (for women) was debated by the social partners in the new Social Dialogue Council (RDS) with, seemingly, quite positive prospects for a compromise.

The government suggested draft amendments to the Trade Unions Act to implement the verdict of the Constitutional Court, which had ruled in June 2015 that this law was too restrictive on the right to association. Trade unions may now be able to enlarge their social base for recruitment although, since public consultation continues, the content of the final draft has still to be finalised.

There was a debate on the minimum ‘wage’ (or, strictly speaking, the minimum price) of PLN 12 (€2.7 as at 4 May 2016) per hour for work performed under civil law contracts. Again, social partners in the Social Dialogue Council (RDS) appear to be heading towards at least a partial consensus on how to solve the problem of civil law contracts (known as ‘junk’ jobs), which have come to symbolise precarious work in Poland.

Pay pressure

Employers are under increasing pressure to raise wages, which echoes the gradual improvement in the overall state of the labour market.

‘500+’ programme

The forthcoming government family policy programme ‘500+’ (child benefit paid monthly for second and subsequent children) was discussed in the context of possible, unforeseen, consequences for the labour market (and employment rate). There are claims that  persons earning below-average wages who are in receipt of the benefit may as a result be discouraged from working.

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