The trade union movement in Poland is in a state of deep crisis for structural reasons. We believe it is time to change the Trade Unions Act and assign a new role to trade unions.
In Poland, the remits of trade unions are very limited. They have little impact on the operation of a company and are often victims of employers’ repressive measures. At the same time, the National Labour Inspectorate (PIP) controls approximately 70 000 companies each year, which constitutes less than 5% of all enterprises. But even in companies inspected by PIP, the scale of the violations of the regulations is gigantic.
In large workplaces, trade unionists are entitled to employer-funded positions, that allow the worker’s representations to have power, but still with limited competences of full-time unionists. In this context, we are calling for a change in the scope of duties and status of union-employed workers.
We believe that in order to strengthen the position of unions and simultaneously reduce the scale of employees’ rights violations, full-time trade unionists should become inspectors of the National Labour Inspectorate. In case of labour law violations, a full-time trade unionist would be entitled to remedy the recognized misconduct, including the payment of outstanding wages and other benefits to employees, and to penalize a dishonest employer. Trade unionists could then penalize employers for breaking labour laws. This would greatly increase the scale of the company’s scrutiny, and partially relive PIP of its responsibilities. Thanks to the new status and power given to full-time trade unionists, they would become a body that oversees the compliance with labour laws. Granting trade unionists the remits of Labour Inspectorate would allow them to take a wider range of action but at the same time entrust them with more responsibilities.