Industrial relations

Poland: Latest developments in working life Q4 2019

A protest by enterprise-level trade unions at ArcelorMittal’s Kraków steel mill and the continuation of a pay-related dispute in the public education sector are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Poland in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Shutting down steel production meets with protests

Enterprise-level trade unions launched a protest in response to a decision by ArcelorMittal to temporarily halt its blast furnace and steel plant in Kraków as a result of the decreasing demand for steel. The unions feared that this halt in operations might be permanent. [1]

The protest was held on 18 November, a few days before the scheduled halt. Several hundred participants gathered for the protest, which drew support from trade unions with sectors tied to steel manufacturing, such as coal-mining. Despite the unions’ resistance, the halt went ahead as planned on 23 November.

The Kraków plant employed some 1,100 staff (800 employees working in production) as of November. ArcelorMittal did not plan to make any of the plant’s staff redundant. It offered work to 440 employees in its Dąbrowa Górnicza plant, while the remaining employees were to be reallocated to other operations in Poland or to be put on standby (with the right to partial remuneration). [2]

Teachers back at work, but tensions remain

Following the suspension of the nationwide strike of public school teachers in June, the 2019–2020 school year began as planned on 1 September. No industrial action occurred, despite public statements made over the summer by the Polish Teachers’ Unions (ZNP), which had initiated the strike.

The decision not to continue the strike (or any other form of protest) by the ZNP, which is the largest trade union for teachers and educators in Poland, was reportedly driven by a noticeable demobilisation of teachers, who were disappointed in what was seen as prematurely backing off the protest before the summer holidays. The financial consequences for those who went on strike (i.e. not receiving wages while on strike) and the government’s pledge to launch incremental wage increases through an agreement with NSZZ Solidarność, the second-largest trade union for teachers and educators, also had an impact on teachers’ willingness to protest.

However, the promised wage increases have not occurred as agreed. In a gesture of protest, NSZZ Solidarność launched an action of sending postcards to the Ministry of Education on National Education Day (14 October) with appeals to fulfil the pledges made. [3] The apparent dissatisfaction of a union known as sympathetic to the government is a sign that the pay-related dispute may be far from resolved.


Footnotes

  1. ^ NSZZ Solidarność (2019), Nie dla wygaszania! Tak dla hutnictwa!, 19 November.
  2. ^ Wyborcza.pl (2019), Premier Morawiecki: Gdyby huta była państwowa, sytuacja pracowników mogłaby być inna , 23 November
  3. ^ NSZZ Solidarność (2019), Solidarność wysyła pocztówki do ministra edukacji! , 12 October.

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