GFTU BGCM Report 2019
a large number for a Polish demonstration, took to the streets and stopped the proposals. Three years ago the miners in Silesia, traditionally the industrial heart of Poland and most unionised area did the same. The example of the industrial relations in the state owned Polish Airlines was given. There was a tradition of victimisation against union activists, whether pilots or crew, in the company. Recently the company had switched from standard permanent contracts, to what the unions refer to as ‘garbage contracts’ where there is no specified workplace or times of work and under which workers become designated as being self- employed. There was a climate of fear in such situations preventing a united fightback. The teaching union was traditionally one of the largest, best organised and most socialist in orientation and as such was a particular thorn in the government’s side. Hence recent government reforms of education to shift costs to Local Authorities, and sometimes schools directly and shifting costs to them which cannot be met given their weak financial positions. Wages, though overall very low were increasing everywhere except in teaching. Priority campaigning within the OPZZ appeared to be to a) improve the state of labour and trade union law, b) oppose the introduction of non-standard and temporary contracts and c)support Sunday opening of shops. On this latter point it appeared that Solidarnosc and the government were seeking to restrict Sunday trading which the OPZZ saw in fact as a way of promoting the worst small shop employers. There had been a hunger strike by young doctors and related action arguing as it turned out, successfully, for a 100% pay rise and more money for the health service. It was remarked that this was not initiated by the trade unions who joined in with this late in the day. Union Recruitment and growth Unlike previous international study visits, we were not made aware of any particular new and pioneering strategies for growth. There was active use of social media and Facebook in particular. There was an awareness of the need to recruit the next generation, but little presented to us by way of strategies. The age profile of activists is apparently increasing in relation to the population at large. There appeared to be attempts to try and return trade unionists to schools to educate about the role of unions but there were difficulties and barriers to recruiting on University campuses where it appears the new generation of nationalists are being drawn from. It should be noted that the police are trade unionised in Poland. Health and social care The Health care and social workers union covers all related grades in hospitals from director to cleaner and also within the state health care inspectorate the social care sector. There is a general shortage of medical staff and nurses in particular. Two thirds of qualified nurses either do not
enter or soon leave the profession. Low pay was cited as the main reason for this. Poland has one of the lowest ratios of medical and nursing staff per head of the population in the EU. There are a proliferation of small elderly, mental health and general social care providers. Health Care is provided by the state based on social insurance of 7.75% being dedicated to a national health care fund which is woefully inadequate. For some reason the state directly funds paramedics through a separate funding stream. For twenty years there has been no central or sectoral collective bargaining in health care. There are some 17,000 social care workers in Poland we were told and the Church through voluntary projects picks up a great deal of the requirements for provision amongst the population. Elderly care is provided for by 70% of the person’s pension and this is inadequate. Remaining costs are borne by families. The current government’s emphasis is on family funded care rather than public services. There are government programmes targeting support for disabled workers into employment, but these are universally considered inadequate. Interestingly one overseas employer, the fast food chain McDonalds, has prioritised the employment of disabled workers. Disability organisations have fought for change and had some successes on some fronts. Hate crime is on the increase within the country and the unions report more race based and nationalist related crime and teachers report increasing disaffection and violence in schools coupled with a disinterest in learning and progressing. One colleague described the country as being mentally ill prepared for the scale of current inequalities in society. Industry
With metal working, steel, and engineering union representatives we discussed the situation in industry, factories and mines. It appeared that a pioneering transfer of engagements between the strong steel workers union/s and the engineering being considered as an example of new unity. Representatives from these sectors metal trades was in the offing and
believed that the union had ‘lost the instinct of being on the left’ and lacked an ideological basis for their activity and should return to their founding principles and moral base.
International Work | Page 42
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