The Crisis of the Social Dialogue in Poland and Labor Unions' "Constitutional" Response

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Karol MUSZYNSKI, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warsaw, Poland
After the crisis, Polish government has undertaken certain actions (flexibilization of working time regulations, rise of the retirenement age, limiting the early retirement schemes, freeze on public sector wages) despite labor unions’ strong objections. Government's disregard for the labor unions caused a serious crisis of the social dialogue. As a result of the marginalization of the unions by the government, all three nation-wide unions suspended their participation in the Triapartite Commission as of 2013.

One of the ways that labor unions adapted to the technocratic agenda of the cabinets of Donald Tusk and Ewa Kopacz was an increased activity on the level of the Constitutional Tribunal. Paper will include an empirical evaluation of those actions after the crisis. According to the Polish Constitution, nationwide labor unions have the right to appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal for the judgment on the conformity to the Constitution or ratified international agreement of a law or other normative act. Since 2007, labor unions used this right 25 times. More importantly, the character of the actions has changed, and they are no longer solely defensive as was the case in the past (i.e. are not limited to simply blocking the austerity/neoliberalization agenda). Recently, one of the unions succesfully proved inconformity of regulations limiting the unionization right to the employees hired on labor code contracts, that prevented the access to the unions for the civil law workers and self-employed. It is a huge success of the labor movement given a substantial increase in the non-standard contracts after 2007. The judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal forces the legislature to pass a new law that will enlarge the scope of the access to the labor unions, which shows that right to appeal to the Constituional Tribunal may be replacing ordinary policy-making influence that became ineffective after the crisis.