How to enliven collective bargaining agreements and autonomous dialog in Poland? – this was the main question discussed at the conference in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, organized by the Ministry and Employers of Poland.
– I agree with the representatives of trade unions that collective bargaining agreements are and will continue to be relevant – said president of Employers of Poland Andrzej Malinowski. In his opinion, many norms included in the Labour Code could be effectively moved to company level and be decided on autonomously by employers and employees, which would contribute to the development of authentic social dialog in companies. As President Malinowski remarked, the role of collective bargaining in shaping work conditions is currently very restricted, as there is no space for negotiation, which has been taken up by Labour Code regulations. In his opinion, collective bargaining agreements should become Labour Codes of sorts for companies. – This would be a true, practically applied labour law, without state-imposed unified regulations for all employers with no regard for the size of companies, the number of employees, industry specifics and economic capacities – stressed the President of Employers of Poland
Thus, collective bargaining agreements should serve as guarantee of rights and duties – provide a certain degree of stability, but with a possibility of renegotiation and even suspension of regulations should the company’s financial condition worsen to the point where changes are necessary. Meanwhile, “eternal” collective bargaining agreements are still in place our country – despite the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal.
Minister of Labour and Social Policy Władysław Kosiniak–Kamysz underlined the necessity of maintaining equality between both parties when elaborating collective bargaining agreements. He placed particular stress on cooperation between social partners, which should be based on existing documents prepared a.o. by the International Labour Organization. – Regulations included therein should be used when elaborating changes in the law – said minister Kosiniak-Kamysz. In his opinion, it is important that collective agreements are not seen as field of confrontation between parties, but as a vision of future cooperation between employers and employees. – I hope for an open, transparent discussion, even on issues as tough as these. Its effects will have an impact not only on the quality and conditions of work, but also on the competitiveness of Polish economy – added the minister.
Secretary of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy Jacek Męcina presented the collective agreement law in theory and in practice. He drew attention to the alarming phenomenon of decreasing space for the creation of collective agreements, caused by the overregulation of law. He admitted that the clause of perpetual validity means that employers have less faith in collective agreements. This opinion was confirmed by prof. Jerzy Wratny. – Employers are wary of signing agreements precisely because of their perpetual validity. Apart from that, other forms of agreement are gaining importance, including remuneration regulations. These forms are increasingly similar to collective bargaining agreements – said minister Wratny.
Monika Gładoch, advisor to the President of Employers of Poland presented agrement practice in Germany. – Why Germany? Because we should be inspired by the best solutions – she said. She reminded that industrial relations in this country are based on agreements in companies. – We still have a lot of ground to make up to reach such a level of dialog: for many years we were taught that all important issues should be regulated by acts, so there was no need for dialog – added Monika Gładoch.
In the opinion of prof. Ludwik Florek the popularity would be more significant if they were only valid for a specified period of time, as employers do not know what the will be the market situation in one or two years. He also drew attention to the role of the Tripartite Commission. – The Commission should provide an impulse for collective bargaining – he said. He also stressed that a lack of collective agreements means that there is no possibility of making EU directives more flexible.
– I am very much in favour of increased flexibility in collective bargaining – so that the specifics of the company’s situation might be taken into account in negotiating agreements – said Jerzy Jóźkowiak, Chairman of the Board of Poczta Polska.
– Collective bargaining agreements have their value. It is good to have one, but its conditions should not be fixed forever, regardless of the economic situation of the company – stated Chairman of Jastrzębska Spółka Weglowa Jarosław Zagórowski.
Andrzej Radzikowski, vice chairman of OPZZ agreed with chairman Zagórowski that the state could not escape the role of a regulator providing guidelines for negotiations between employers and employees. Moreover, he believes that there is space for collective bargaining agreements, but the interested parties lack awareness. He also drew attention to the need for supporting branch agreements, as there are already positive examples of such practices in the construction industry.