Poland: Latest working life developments – Q3 2016

A protest in the public healthcare system, discontent in the education sector, significant legislative initiatives and support for a ban on Sunday shop opening are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Poland in the third quarter of 2016.

Protests in health and education, but postal workers reach agreement

A huge protest in the public healthcare system in September was organised by the Alliance of Medical Professions (PZM), a loose coalition representing nine occupational groups (including doctors, nurses and radiographers). This was the first time in Poland for such coordinated and effective action addressing pay demands in the public healthcare sector.

Although the summer holidays are not a favourable time for collective action in education, teachers’ discontent grew over proposed government reforms, and the Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) began preparations for a national protest in the autumn. Broadly, the reforms are to replace the current three-tier system with a two-tier one, getting rid of middle school, but the details remain unknown. It is unlikely that the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (NSZZ Solidarność), which is generally sympathetic to the government, will join the protest although it, too, is sceptical about the envisaged reforms.

A dispute in the Polish Post, the State postal organisation, which had dragged on since December 2014, ended in July, when a pay agreement was signed. This will mean that the basic pay of about 71,000 staff will increase by PLN 100 (€23 as at 17 October 2016).

Developments in labour-related legislation

Some significant legislative initiatives have gained new momentum. In July the President, Andrzej Duda, signed into law an amendment to the Public Procurement Law (PDF). This means that bidders for government contracts can no longer rely on the ‘lowest price’ being the main reason for being chosen. It will be more difficult for businesses to win public contracts if they have broken rules on the protection of their employees or the environment.

Social partners failed to agree on how long workers should now have to appeal following notice of their contracts being terminated or expiring. The current periods (7 days in the case of contract termination and 14 days in the case of dissolution or expiry of a contract) are now considered questionable in light of ILO Convention 158 on the Termination of Employment Convention.

In August, the government finally presented an official draft of the complex amendment to the Trade Unions Act, aiming to extend the right of association to people in non-standard employment.

In September, the Prime Minister appointed members of Labour Law Codification Committee. The body, with members nominated by the government (seven), and social partners (seven) – is charged with preparing drafts of two new labour codes (individual and collective) in the next 18 months.

In September, the government also published the decree establishing the national minimum gross wage (PDF) from 1 January 2017 at PLN 2,000 (€460), which is 47% of the forecasted average pay. This is the first time since the adoption of the Minimum Wage Act in 2003 that the government’s offer (now translated into law) has exceeded the amount proposed by trade unions. On 1 January 2017, the hourly minimum wage will be raised to PLN 12 (€2.77) and then, later next year, to PLN 13 (€3) for people in non-standard employment, after the President signed the decision into law in August.

Contracts of employment must also now be signed before the employee commences work, following the implementation of an amendment to the Labour Code in September.

A campaign backed by NSZZ Solidarność to introduce a bill banning shop opening on Sundays had reportedly gained 500,000 signatures by the end of August, much more than the 100,000 target. The draft law will now be discussed in Parliament.

Outlook

Tensions are expected to rise in the education sector in the final quarter of the year. The new Chair of the Social Dialogue Council (RDS), this time representing the employer side, will take office, succeeding Piotr Duda (head of NSZZ Solidarność), whose annual term ends in October. The debate on Sunday trading will continue. It is also likely that Parliament will debate the long-awaited amendments to the Trade Unions Act extending the right of association.

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