Poland: Collective bargaining and continuous vocational training

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 05 February 2009



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Poland
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Piotr Sula
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The continuous vocational training system in Poland has a strong basis in binding regulations. The significance of this issue is stressed in a few acts and decrees. Worth noticing is the fact that only few regulations were prepared with involvement of social partners. Furthermore, social partners were also in minimal extent responsible for the CVT system forming by the tripartite structures.

Main features of the national CVT system

The legal basis for continuous education in Poland is comprised in:

  • The Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 1997 (art. 65 of which provides that ‘the public authorities pursue policies aimed at full, productive employment by way of implementation of programmes for counteracting unemployment, including organisation and support of vocational advice and education as well as public and intervention works’);
  • The legislative Act regarding the educational system (this system also includes continuous education institutions, practical training institutions, and additional vocational training centres which ‘enable obtainment and supplementing of general knowledge and of vocational skills and qualifications’);
  • Executive instruments to the legislative Act regarding the educational system and to the Polish Labour Code – the ordinance concerning the principles for increasing professional qualifications and general education of adults promulgated by the Minister of National Education and the Minister of Labour and Social Policy on 12 October 1993, the ordinance concerning the types, organisation, and means of operation of public continuous education institutions and public practical education institutions, including public professional further education centres, promulgated by the Minister of National Education and Sports on 13 June 2003, and the ordinance concerning developing and supplementing of general knowledge and professional education and skills in non-scholastic forms promulgated by the Minister of Education and Science on 3 February 2006.

The normative legal acts listed above constitute the basis for operation of continuous education centres and practical education centres.

Under art. 17 of the Polish Labour Code, employers are obligated to facilitate the increase of their employees’ vocational skills.

The ordinance of the Minister of National Education and the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 12 October 1993, as cited above, provides that an employee assigned to an educational or training course by her/his employer is entitled to salaried leave and to be excused for part of the working day.

The most important providers of educational services include:

  • Continuous education centres – public institutions operated by the county authorities, charged with adult education in scholastic and extra-scholastic forms;
  • Practical education centres – operated by the county authorities or by the mayor of the given city, charged mainly with organisation of vocational training and internships;
  • Union of further vocational learning institutions – a body of associations and other legal entities which carry on educational activity through a network of schools at secondary and post-secondary level;
  • The General Knowledge Society – an education society which organises vocational courses and training and enables further education at secondary schools and universities;
  • ‘People’s universities’ – pursue continuous education activities in rural areas and in small towns.
Table 1. Vocationally active persons in continuous education, 2003
  Total Women Men
Formal education 54.5 52.1 57
In the scholastic system 10.2 9.5 11.2
Outside the scholastic system 44.7 42.7 46.7
Informal 83.7 82.3 85.2
Use of printed materials 73.4 71.8 75
Use of Internet materials 42 42.1 42
Use of multi-media materials 44.7 43.6 45.9
Use of educational institutions 36.5 30.6 42.7

Source: Uczenie się dorosłych. Przegląd tematyczny. Raport źródłowy. Polska, Ministry of the Economy and Labour, Labour Market Department, Warsaw 2005.

Table 2. Expenditures out of the Labour Fund, 2002 – 2006
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Total 9,972,600,000 10,609,800,000 9,180,200,000 5,550,800,000 7,200,400,000
Benefits 8,879,200,000 8,761,600,000 7,258,500,000 2,997,700,000 2,763,100,000
Active forms – total 539,400,000 1,357,600,000 1,323,500,000 1,905,300,000 2,218,700,000
Training 50,800,000 113,900,000 125,900,000 181,800,000 186,700,000
Internships - - - 607,300,000 671,900,000
Vocational preparation in the workplace - - - 193,600,000 203,100,000

Source: Instytucje szkoleniowe i instrumenty podnoszenia kwalifikacji. Dane statystyczne 2002 – 2006, Ministry of the Economy and Labour, Labour Market Department

Table 3. Proportion of Labour Fund resources for qualification improvement in expenditures for activisation programmes in 2002-2006 (%)
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Training 9.42 8.40 9.51 9.54 8.41
Internships       31.87 30.28
Vocational preparation in the workplace       10.16 9.15

Source: Instytucje szkoleniowe i instrumenty podnoszenia kwalifikacji. Dane statystyczne 2002 – 2006, Ministry of the Economy and Labour, Labour Market Department.

Art. 17 of the Polish Labour Code sets out guarantees for employees with respect to increase of their qualifications.

The funding of the CVT system

In accordance with the legislative Act regarding employment promotion and labour market institutions of 20 April 2004, an employer may establish a training fund for financing (or co-financing) continuous education costs. This fund is built up from employee contributions of not less than 0.25% of the remunerations fund. The employer may also apply to the starosta (local government head) of the given county for a refund – out of the Labour Fund – of the cost of re-training employees at risk of redundancy on account of causes on the part of the employer. Such support from the Labour Fund may cover up to 50% of the training costs (but not more than the average remuneration as at execution of the contract in question), provided that the participating employees are retained in their newly acquired skill profile by their current employee for at least 12 months following conclusion of the training.

Pursuant to an application by the employer, the starosta may reimburse out of the Labour Fund:

  • Training costs – up to 80% of the average remuneration (of one employee) as at commencement of the training, provided that the employee is sent for a training programme at least 22 working days in duration and receives training leave for this period;
  • Remuneration of a hereto unemployed person assigned by the county labour office to work as a substitute of an employee sent for training by the employer along with the attendant social insurance contributions in an amount not to exceed 40% of the average remuneration as at commencement of the training.

The role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in the CVT system

What is the role of the social partners in devising the CVT system (devising programmes and initiatives, setting guidelines and standards, etc.)? Since 2002, have any relevant changes or developments taken place?

The social partners participate in the work of the Chief Employment Council (Naczelna Rada Zatrudnienia), an advisory body to the minister charged with labour affairs with respect to labour market issues. The Council is charged, among other activities, with reviewing draft legislation regulating the labour market, assuaging the effects of unemployment, and with vocational activisation. Continuous education has also been the subject of a debate between the social partners within the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs held in March 2004.

What is the role of the social partners in the governance of the CVT system (managing CVT initiatives, monitoring, auditing and assessment, participating in bodies raising and/or monitoring funds dedicated to CVT, etc.)? Since 2002, have any relevant changes or developments taken place?

The social partners are involved in organisation of the continuous education system only to a very limited degree. The trade unions prepare for the benefit of their members training sessions so as to leave them better able to perform the union’s objectives.

In relation to legislative provisions, what is the role of social dialogue and collective bargaining in CVT in your country, specifying the relative importance of the different bargaining levels? Since 2002, have any relevant changes or developments taken place?

The influence of social dialogue and of collective agreements on the nature of the continuous education system has been limited, and there is no indication of change in this regard.

Collective Bargaining on CVT

As already mentioned above, the role of collective bargaining is modest. As regards the role of the tripartite structures, namely the Chief Employment Council and the Tripartite Commission, one might mention the latter’s involvement in preparation of the legislative Act regarding employment promotion and labour market institutions (as mentioned above).

Main positions of the social partners on the CVT

Continuous education is very much appreciated by Polish employers in light of the recent problems in recruiting employees. The Polish Crafts Union (Związek Rzemiosła Polskiego, ZRP) has been particularly active in the vocational preparation of young people. The Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan (Polska Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych Lewiatan, PKPP Lewiatan), meanwhile, has been noted as adopting a critical position with respect to the legal regulations on continuous education. Its representatives have been complaining that organisation of training for employees entails considerable problems in practice. Under the ordinance of the Minister of Education and Science of 3 February 2006, as cited above, only an entity with appropriate educational accreditation may organise non-scholastic training, and the catalogue of non-scholastic training forms is a closed one – course, vocational course, seminar, and vocational internship. If any of the applicable conditions are not met, the organisers do not receive any tax benefits. This translates into difficulties for training firms which do not have accreditation – they have problems soliciting clients.

PKPP Lewiatan has been citing these perceived difficulties in lobbying for amendment of the ordinance; they also point out that, according to PKPP Lewiatan’s own statistics, participation of adults (aged 25-4) in continuous education covers around a mere 5.6%. PKPP Lewiatan believes that, given these figures, maintaining a legal differentiation between providers of educational services defeats the purpose.

Commentary

The rapidly changing employment market calls for ever more well-timed reactions on the part of employees wishing to remain competitive. Employers, on the other hand, have rising demand for well-qualified employees, and they welcome all initiatives which promise to facilitate recruitment. Of the social partners, the Polish Crafts Union has built up the best track record with respect to continuous education – or, to be more accurate, vocational training.

As concerns collective negotiations and their influence on the continuous education system, it should be pointed out that this problem is being taken up at the highest level – the Tripartite Commission, the Chief Employment Council – as well as by the regional, and even local, employment councils. Yet it is hard to assess whether debates in these circles translate into any real changes in the social and economic environment, or simply make for better diagnosis of the problem. The knowledge exchanged between the social partners and the public authorities during such meetings can certainly spur the latter to action of some sort; again, though, it is impossible to determine whether such measures as have been taken to date were really the result of tripartite initiatives.

Piotr Sula, Institute of Public Affairs

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