Address to the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference
Mr. Adam GLIKSMAN, workers delegate of Poland
June,3rd, 2016

Madam President,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Delegates, Observers, Guests,

On behalf of Polish employees please allow me to extend to you cordial greetings and wishes of most eventful proceedings.

During the official opening of the Conference, as well as during the meetings of the particular Committees, many voices have spoken out on the numerous problems and hopes which we have brought with us to Geneva. These are primarily the result of the growing changes in the labour market, which has been gradually abandoning the traditional model of employment. Today, as we discuss labour, we must therefore consider not only people employed on the basis of a traditional contract, but also those who work with other types of contracts, including self-employment. That group of employees needs our attention and for that reason, we must seek the ways in which to assist them as well. This, in turn, requires our cooperation, as addressed by the Director General in the opening speech.

Let the example of Poland prove the importance of the issue. For years, the voice of the trade unions had been ignored by successive governments, which would treat unions as little more than dressing in social dialogue. As a result, a dramatic decision was made in the middle of 2013, when the unions chose to quit the works of the institutions of social dialogue in Poland. Only two years later, on 24 July 2015, pressured by the social partners, the upcoming election and the plummeting ratings, did the parliament pass a new Act on the Social Dialogue Council and Other Institutions of Social Dialogue, which was welcome by all sides with great hopes, since the increased importance of social dialogue is seen as a chance to work together on solving social problems in our country.

One of those is the situation of people employed on the basis of the so-called “junk contracts”, a group which constitutes already about 2 million people in Poland, all of whom lack the proper instruments of social security, as well as specific ways of payroll tracking and a minimum hourly wage. Regarding the latter, Poland’s Social Dialogue Council managed to successfully work out a join agreement settling the minimum hourly wage on 12 złoty per hour – that is, about US$3 per hour – which is slightly above the level of the minimum monthly wage in the country.

Another subject of interest for Polish unions is a constant and fast increase of the minimum wage, whose current level is still unsatisfactory.

Further, there is a need for more actions to allow all working people to form trade unions. The regulations that have been in effect in Poland for 25 years still exclude the self-employed and those employed on the basis of civil law contracts from creating and joining trade unions. According to the data of the European Commission, that constitutes about 27% of all people employed in Poland.

Already in 2012, after a complaint had been filed by the NSZZ “Solidarność”, did the ILO give its recommendations to Poland, requesting that the legislation be changed to widely accommodate union freedom. The government did nothing to advance the issue, even though the country’s Constitutional Tribunal confirmed the unions’ objections in June 2015, noticing the discrepancy between the law and Poland’s Constitution, as well as with the ILO’s Convention 87. The new government has commenced works on updating the Act on Trade Unions, which is to come to terms with the demands of the unions regarding the right to organise. A project has already been drafted, and we are counting on the ILO’s assistance in finalizing the issue and giving it a successful conclusion.

The current session of the International Labour Conference proves how many expectations, ideas and good will there is within us. Still, we must be more effective in our search for the ways in which to promote the solutions on which we have worked here in particular countries, followed by industry branches and, finally, in the work place. Without convincing governments and employers, as well as employees, and without guaranteeing their understanding, our plans of seeing proper work that leads to the enrichment of the workers rather than to their impoverishment will not become reality. That is the key task of the International Labour Organization in the context of the current conditions in the labour market and the preservation of social justice – as the Director General called upon in his opening speech.

Thank you for your attention.