European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Poland

8 July 2016

The OPZZ Confederation supports the creation of a trade union for Ukrainian workers

For the first time a Polish trade union confederation, the OPZZ, has helped to establish a trade union for migrant workers in Poland. In May 2016 it set up a union for Ukrainian workers in Poland with a view to organising and defending the rights of the numerous immigrant workers from Ukraine. The OPZZ thus hopes to combat undeclared work and social dumping in Poland.

Ukraine, one of Poland’s neighbours, sends Poland hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers who are prepared to work for less than the national minimum wage. The phenomenon has escalated in recent months since the disturbances caused by the conflict in Ukraine. Trade union experts estimate that there are around 900 000 Ukrainians working in Poland every day.

Their arrival compensates for the gaps in the Polish workforce caused by the high levels of emigration of Polish workers since the country joined the European Union in 2004. The new arrivals from Ukraine, often from Russian-speaking regions, want to settle in Poland permanently. They take precarious jobs in sectors where there are few unions, such as construction, agriculture, tourism and home-based care.

The large OPZZ confederation wants the new trade union to help to protect Ukrainian workers by ensuring that the rules of the International Labour Organization and Poland’s minimum labour standards are applied. In practice, the OPZZ hopes to put an end to competition from Ukrainian workers prepared to work for very low wages, which puts downward pressure on the wages of Polish workers.

The new trade union is currently being registered with the authorities and that purely formal procedure will certainly be completed by the end of July.

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