Bill on collective disputes in favor of employers

A draft law on collective disputes has recently been submitted for public consultation. It contains some significant changes. One of the most important is the maximum duration of a collective dispute of 9 months, with the possibility to extend it for a further 3 months. This solution is long awaited by employers, who are tired of lazy and endless discussions with employees.

The collective disputes bill is expected to lead to fewer strikes and more amicable settlements of disputes

It seems that a major revolution is on the way in the entire procedure of the collective dispute between employer and employee and the legal behavior of strikes. A lot will change about the new collective disputes bill, which has been submitted to a public consultation. Provided, of course, that it actually goes through the entire legislative path and becomes a binding law. It is possible that some ideas of the rulers will not appeal to either side of the social dialogue. In the regulatory impact assessment we find a clear indication of the intentions of the authors of the project.

The expected effect of the Regulation will be to ensure a greater degree of social peace by guaranteeing transparent, easy to apply and interpret, amicable procedures for the resolution of collective disputes and social conflicts.

The clip above sounds pretty good. Transparency and readability are always paramount. The amicable settlement of disputes and conflicts is an ideal worth pursuing. However, the passage on “ensuring a greater degree of social peace” deserves special attention. In theory, if the tools used in the project work, we should have fewer strikes. Therefore, it is worth looking at what exactly the rulers have prepared for us.

As reported by the website, the project’s first assumption is to abandon the exhaustive definition of the subject of the collective dispute. Such disputes will therefore relate to any disputes between the employer and the persons who perform work for him. Provided it concerns collective trade union rights or freedoms, but also professional, economic or social collective interests or rights related to the performance of work.

The current legal definition of a collective dispute is much narrower. It only concerns working conditions, wages or social benefits, and the trade union rights and freedoms of workers. In practice, however, unions often do not adhere to such a narrow definition. This in turn leads at the outset to a formal scuffle about the admissibility of bringing a collective dispute between employer and employee. A change in this regard seems logical.

The rulers can greatly complicate the beginning of a collective dispute and facilitate its ending

The draft law on collective disputes also introduces the obligation to select the joint representation of trade union organizations. Such joint representation would be necessary to initiate and conduct a collective dispute. In this case, it is difficult to clearly evaluate the idea. On the one hand, we recently had a real drama with pay increases at the Social Insurance Institution. ZUS’s increases from August would not have happened if it hadn’t been able to get around the Union Alternative’s objection, which actually doesn’t know what it’s about.

On the other hand, until now we have unions allied to the current ruling majority. Meanwhile, the budgetary position has been in turmoil for several years. In such a situation, the need for unions to come to terms with conflicting interests and positions can pose a serious problem. Which, in turn, in practice would prevent the emergence of a collective dispute with the employer. At least until all unions in the factory have one joint representation.

Another interesting idea is the judicial inquiry into the legality of the strike referendum. It seems that such a solution is mainly a formalistic lifeline for employers. A collective dispute and a strike will not take place if the court rules that the strike referendum was illegal. The union side has nothing to gain from such an investigation.

Finally, the bill introduces collective bargaining agreements that employers have been looking forward to. It concerns the legal determination of the duration of a collective dispute. After 9 months, the dispute must end with the submission of relevant documents, otherwise it will be considered closed by law. The project included the possibility to extend this term by 3 months.

Mediation is usually a good idea, as long as the mediator is really impartial

Why is it so important to employers? There is no denying that the practice thus far allowed the collective dispute to drag on indefinitely. It was enough not to take steps to resolve the dispute. Why would anyone do this? In this way, unions can escalate their demands. Meanwhile, the employer is always burdened by the specter of a strike. It is worth noting that this is mainly the domain of state-owned and state-owned enterprises.

The collective disputes bill introduces preventive mediation. As is usually the case in such cases, there is mandatory mediation by a professional mediator. The purpose of such a solution is to prevent the dispute from escalating further when the parties enter into discussions. The rulers justify such a solution as follows:

This allows parties to seek professional help from a person who guarantees impartiality and helps to reach an earlier agreement, which in turn can contribute to an increase in the number of agreements concluded at this stage of the dispute.

The functioning of the list of mediators at the Minister of Family and Social Policy is also changing. The most important thing here is that the form of the list is no longer agreed with the employers’ and employees’ organizations that are members of the Council for Social Dialogue. It will be fully handled by the Minister in charge of Labor Affairs. In return, the aim is to increase spending limits for the functioning of the Social Dialogue Council and the Voivodeship Councils for Social Dialogue.

Is the new law on collective disputes a step in the right direction? The vast majority of his assumptions seem rational. However, it’s hard to resist the impression that some of them will make organizing a workplace strike difficult. Particularly in the generally understood budget sector. Given the general economic situation of the country and the degree of dissatisfaction of workers in this particular sector, this would be a rather unfortunate outcome. It is quite possible that those in power will withdraw from some assumptions during public consultations.

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