Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Poland

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Poland, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 38,200,000
Capital: Warsaw

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Attempted Murders: 10
Dismissals: 4

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


As demonstrated by the numerous reports of violations, hostility towards union activity remains commonplace. Undue pressure is often exerted by employers on trade unions and their members. Restrictions on the right to strike remain excessive.


Parliamentary elections held in October were won by the centre right's Civic Platform, who entered again into a coalition with the Polish People's Party. The result represented stability. Economically, Poland again performed better than much of the EU, with growth of 4.3%. However unemployment remained a blackspot with 10% of the workforce out of work. The government demonstrates little interest in social dialogue on employment issues such as the minimum wage and atypical forms of employment, and unions often have to contend with hostility in their operating environment. The two largest trade unions (Solidarity and OPZZ) have sought to distance themselves from political parties, reversing the trend of recent history.

Trade union rights in law

Trade union rights are guaranteed in the law but are limited for a number of categories of employees in the public services. While all workers have the right to form and join the trade union of their choice, a single trade union system applies to policemen, border guards and guards in penitentiary institutions and the employees of the Highest Supervision Chamber. Protection against anti-union dismissals is limited for small unions, as the number of union officials awarded protection is dependent on the size of the union.

While the right to collective bargaining is secured, a number of workers in the civil service including key civil servants, appointed or elected employees of state and municipal bodies, court judges and prosecutors, do not enjoy that right. Furthermore, the right to strike is seen as an element of collective disputes, can in general only be called if the parties do not reach an agreement through negotiations, and must be preceded by conciliation or mediation. The list of "essential services" exceeds the ILO definition, and includes workers in state administration and in local government. These workers can only use alternative forms of protest.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

No entry for this country for this year


Leading discounter dismisses union activists: Leading Polish discounter chain, "Biedronka", stands accused of dismissing workers because of their trade union activities. Solidarnosc members demonstrated against the sackings in January 2011 in Warsaw.

Intimidation and harassment at Bydgoszcz waterworks: Several violations of trade union rights have been reported at the City Waterworks Company Ltd in Bydgoszcz. These have included: management interference in a union meeting; surveillance of the trade union shop steward and head of works council in and outside work, the offering of benefits to non-union members, intimidation of activists; and hindering the union in its day-to-day activities.

Unlawful dismissal at appliance factory: On 10 August 2011, Mr Pawel Owczarek, a member of the trade union organising committee, presented documents on establishing a trade union and workers' representation at the company AWECO Polska Appliance Ltd in Tychy. Five hours later he was dismissed. Later on the same day Ms Barbara Lukaszewska, a member of trade union organising committee, arrived at work and was summoned to the HR department where she too was handed dismissal with three months notice. On 16 August her contract was terminated without notice.

Longstanding shop steward dismissed: Malgorzata Sokalska had been shop steward at the Hotel Jan III Sobieski in Warsaw since 1992. The employer dismissed her on disciplinary grounds but the decision was put to the court of law as the shop steward, who is protected by law, was dismissed without trade union consent and on false grounds. Court proceedings continue and Ms Sokalska is prohibited from entering the company.

Anti-union discrimination at juvenile detention centre: A very difficult situation has been reported at the juvenile detention centre in Pszczyna, where the trade union is obstructed in its activities and where employees are discriminated against on the grounds of trade union membership. Some are pushed into resigning their membership, whilst aggression towards members is tolerated. This has resulted in the forced anonymity of trade union members, with the employer being given only the number of members and no names, whilst dues are no longer collected through the company payroll. The branch Union president has been subject to additional harassment and intimidation, including being ordered to take psychological tests.

Discrimination continues at water management company: Anti-union discrimination has resurfaced at PWiK Ltd, a water and sewage management company, in Rybnik, continuing a long history of violations at this company. In particular, the Solidarnosc leader at the company has suffered discrimination, been deprived of the right to be elected to the supervisory board and had an anonymous complaint to the police made against him.

Airline fires President of cabin crew union: The Polish Cabin Crew Trade Union (ZZPP) was in an industrial dispute with the management of LOT Polish Airlines in 2011 concerning rest and working time conditions for cabin crew. During this dispute the union organised a strike ballot and other protest actions which were in conformity with Polish law. In June 2011 two unions, including the ZZPP, established a company focused on participating in the privatisation of the airline. The activities of this employees' company is in concordance with Polish law as well as with the Polish government's programme for enhancing the participation of employees in the privatisation process. On 17th November LOT Polish Airlines dismissed the ZZPP President, Elwira Niemiec, on the pretext of a grave breach of her contractual duties. As president of the union Ms Niemiec enjoys special job security rights and cannot be dismissed without the consent of her trade union board. The ZZPP has concluded that Ms Niemiec had not breached any of her duties as an employee, and had not consented to the termination of her employment.

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