Miners' pensions controversy affects Polish Confederation of Private Employers

Download article in original language : PL0601103NPL.DOC

In December 2005, the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan (PKPP Lewiatan) asked the Constitutional Tribunal to examine whether recent legislation on pensions for miners is constitutional - a move criticised by all the mining trade unions. The National Copper Ore Mining Section of NSZZ Solidarność, representing employees of the KGHM mining company, adopted an unusual form of protest; it called on KGHM’s directors to discontinue contributions to PKPP Lewiatan.

Predictions that Poland's new prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, might withdraw from the Constitutional Tribunal (Trybunał Konstytucyjny, TK) a case challenging a recent Act regarding pensions for miners (PL0511103N) have proved correct. The new minority Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) party government withdrew the application for the Tribunal to test the Act’s compliance with the Polish Constitution. On 8 December 2005, however, the case was resubmitted to the Tribunal by the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan (Polska Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych Lewiatan, PKPP Lewiatan), which deems the Act to be a violation of the basic constitutional principles of social justice and equality and believes that, as such, it serves to undermine civic trust in the state and in its laws.

The PKPP Lewiatan initiative met with objections by the trade unions. The National Copper Ore Mining Section of the Independent and Self-governing Trade Union Solidarity (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy Solidarność, NSZZ Solidarność), representing employees of KGHM Polska Miedź SA, proved rather original in choosing the form of its protest; it called on KGHM’s directors to discontinue contributions to PKPP Lewiatan. These contributions are collected and passed on by the Union of Polish Copper Employers (Związek Pracodawców Polskiej Miedzi, ZPPM), a member organisation of PKPP Lewiatan. The union argues that money accrued through the toil of miners should not be channelled to support organisations that will use these resources against employees. ZPPM representatives counter this by arguing that, just like the unions, they have the right to pursue their mission as they see fit; they also state that maintaining an employer organisation is considerably less costly than administering a trade union. Every member organisation of PKPP Lewiatan contributes not more than 0.2% of its annual remuneration fund.

ZPPM representatives believes that if the KGHM directors decide to withhold contributions, this could result in ZPPM leaving PKPP Lewiatan; they believe that such an outcome would be highly undesirable, in that ZPPM draws many benefits from membership of a nationwide structure. ZPPM argues that PKPP Lewiatan activity is focused on the initiation of necessary systemic changes, including with respect to the pensions system.

It seems unlikely that the company’s directors will take the step of withdrawing ZPPM from PKPP Lewiatan. It is equally unlikely that the latter will budge from its present position concerning miners' pensions. There is, however, the real possibility that, in the near future, PKPP Lewiatan will have to face new attacks by unions, this time by the miners’ section of NSZZ Solidarność. In late November 2005, the section aired the idea of applying to the public prosecution service to start a criminal investigation into the activities of Henryka Bochniarz, the PKPP Lewiatan leader. It alleges that Mr Bochniarz has been spreading untrue information to the detriment of miners and the trade unions. However, it would appear that - at least for the time being - the budget of PKPP Lewiatan should survive intact.

This information is made available through the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), as a service to users of the EIROnline database. EIRO is a project of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. However, this information has been neither edited nor approved by the Foundation, which means that it is not responsible for its content and accuracy. This is the responsibility of the EIRO national centre that originated/provided the information. For details see the "About this record" information in this record.

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment