On the first day of the General Assembly of the Europe and Central Asia section of the International Organization of Employers, delegates focused mainly on the history of employers' organizations in post-socialist countries and the challenges they face in the future.
In his opening speech, the host of the meeting, President of Employers of Poland Andrzej Malinowski, highlighted the changes which occurred in Europe in the last quarter of a century. – After all, not only Europe has changed significantly. Apartheid has ended, several regimes have fallen and the world has begun the great reconstruction of the 90's in order to face new challenges before the start of the twenty-first century – said President Malinowski.
He also stressed that for twenty-five years, Employers of Poland have helped shape a free, democratic country. – From the very beginning of the transformation both in Poland and in other Central European countries, we have supported the citizens' individual entrepreneurship and encouraged people to take matters in their own hands. Our Organization – as the first in this part of Europe – articulated the interests of an emerging employers' movement, which was to play a key role in a post-socialist economy – reminded Andrzej Malinowski and thanked IOE representatives for the support provided in introducing changes.
He also outlined the key objectives of the organization at the outset of transformation: representing common interests of employers on the public forum, putting pressure on decision makers to introduce solution beneficial for the development of company, initiating public debates, presenting ideas for supporting entrepreneurship and applying the best foreign practices to Polish conditions.
President Malinowski drew attention to employers' contribution to establishing the foundations of social dialog. – Today, this dialog is far from what the society expects and what the challenges we are facing call for. One of the parties – the trade unions – identifies partnership with a dictate, negotiation with imposing one's views and only demands concessions from only from employers and the government. Meanwhile, acceptance and realization of union demands has nothing to do with authentic dialog – said President Malinowski, referring to the influence employers had and still have on lawmaking.
– The Freedom of Economic Activity Act, flexible working time, deregulation, anti-crisis acts – these are only the most recent examples of our legislative initiatives – he stated.
President Malinowski also looked to the future. – We have to consider our involvement in establishing new frameworks for labour market, state financing and managing the economy. We need to actively participate in addressing the issue of harmonizing the needs of education with the needs of business, as well as promoting life-long learning – he added.
Olgierd Dziekoński, secretary of state at the Chancellery of the President of Poland, in relation to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the economic transformation, devoted a large part of his speech to freedom. – Everything starts with it. Cultivating freedom is a necessary condition for developing entrepreneurship, but also creates an obligation for the institutions we control – he reminded.
Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy Jacek Męcina was also a guest of the meeting. He stated that the employers' movement was a fundament of the development of Polish democracy and social dialog. – We have employers and organizations who represent them to thank for our economic success. They have been the initiators of change in Poland in the last twenty-five years. However, continuous stimulation for entrepreneurship, particularly among young people, is needed – remarked Minister Męcina and drew attention to challenges facing Poland – unemployment, innovation and demographic changes.
On the first day of the general assembly, the issue of the development of employers' organizations in post-socialist countries was also discussed. Jacek Męcina presented their functioning in the public life of our country. – The basis of the activity of employers' organizations is formed by two acts: on the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs and on employers' organizations. They provide the legal framework a.o. for the process of consulting legal regulations and for the Tripartite Commission, which is now, sadly, working in an incomplete state (trade unions withdrew from the Commission over a year ago – ed.) The way the Tripartite Commission functions is quite close to what is suggested in the recommendations of the International Labour Organization – said Jacek Męcina.
He presented examples of initiatives from the last quarter of a century which succeeded thanks to cooperation between employers and the government, such as a.o. the Freedom of Economic Activity Act and establishing the CIT tax at 19 percent. According to him, the impact of employers' organizations on global changes will be very important for their future, as will the increase in membership. – Companies associated in employers' organizations are more responsible, follow legal regulations more closely and are more innovative – the Minister underlined.
The extent of our country's development in the last quarter of a century was highlighted by prof. Witold Orłowski, director of the Business School at the Warsaw University of Technology and member of the Economic Council to the Prime Minister, while representatives of employers from Latvia, Russia and Hungary presented the specific characteristics of their activities, defined mostly by political factors.
Moderator, Vicepresident of Employers of Poland Janusz Pietkiewicz alluded to the initiative of Polish employers who want to substitute the Social Dialog Council for the Tripartite Commission. Every party's vote would be equal and the results of the work would be more binding for the government. – This would be a revolutionary change, particularly with regards to the position of the government – admitted Vicepresident of Employers of Poland.
A further topic of discussion was the priorities of the IOE and its cooperation with the International Labour Organization. Its main objectives for the coming years will be to: regulate social security, promoting safe working conditions and creating an environment for the development of entrepreneurship.
– Trade unions have to understand that there are some basic conditions which have to be met for entrepreneurship to be effective – said Roberto Suarez Santos, Deputy Secretary General of the IOE. He also highlighted the need to promote entrepreneur-friendly solutions locally, particularly with regards to SMEs, as they could contribute to employment growth.
At the conclusion, Secretary General of the IOE Brent Wilton underlined the need for improved communication between members and the Organization in light of the rapidly changing socioeconomic realities.