The "anti-crisis shield 3.0” has been discussed and promoted by Minister of Development Jadwiga Emilewicz over the last week. During multiple press conferences, she assured the public that it will expand the opportunities for the local governments to take on more debt, loosen the regulations related to public procurement, and provide interest payment subsidies on loans taken by companies.
Now it turns out that Emilewicz did not reveal everything, conveniently skipping elements of the draft that are politically difficult for the government.
While Emilewicz focused on other aspects of the bill, the new "shield" introduces a revolution on the Polish labor market.
Retirement-age workers and employees with multiple jobs to be laid off
The most controversial article allows workers with "other sources of income" to be dismissed. This includes those who, in addition to a full-time job, work under civil contracts, are engaged in side projects under contracts for specific work, or receive royalties from copyright.
Companies will also be able to fire people who have reached the retirement age.
- This is an astonishing decision by the government, which after all reduced the retirement age in 2017 while assuring the public that it would not force anyone to leave work, and in fact would even encourage them to work longer - says Dr. Marcin Wojewódka, attorney-at-law from the law firm Wojewódka i Wspólnicy sp. k.
How will the employer know that we have additional income that can be the basis for dismissal? The bill states that "the employer makes the arrangements based on information available or on the employee's declaration made at the employer's request".
Another provision that bewildered economists and trade unions concerns looser rules on salary cuts. According to the proposed bill, if a company's turnover has dropped by 15 percent over the last year, it could reduce the salary of all employees by 10 percent. Such a decision can be made without any consent from either the workers or their trade union representatives.
The draft allows the entrepreneur to simply inform the employee by email about the wage cut or dismissal from work. It is possible to appeal such a decision, but the deadlines are shorter than usual. In addition, the laid off workers would not qualify for severance checks.
Another article of the bill gives the employer the right to suspend the provisions of collective agreements and other agreements concluded with the crew, e.g. on social matters.
Finally, there is a provision that would introduce a revolution in paid leave. The “anti-crisis shield 3.0” allows the employer to order the employees to use not only overdue leave, but also half of the current leave. All this without asking them for consent.
Panic within the government
When on Monday media outlets, including "Wyborcza", revealed the labour law elements of the new "shield", Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz suddenly canceled her press conference.
In turn, Piotr Müller, the government’s spokesperson, suggested on Twitter that the facilitated dismissal of workers is not part of the government’s plan, but rather a proposal coming from one of its social partners (i.e. employers).
"Employees and employers submit various proposals for change. We process them through dialogue. In terms of covering the draft, it is worth waiting a little longer before its final adoption is announced," the spokesman wrote, omitting the fact that the 48 articles included in the new "shield" were not put there by trade unionists or employers, but by the government itself.
The leaked articles from "anti-crisis shield 3.0" were met with a similar reaction from Łukasz Schreiber, the head of the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers. "I would like to know how the media writing about draft bills which did not even go through the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers can be seen as useful," Schreiber commented on his Twitter account on Monday.
He was quickly answered by one of the Twitter users: "I will explain this to you. Writing about drafts and publicizing preposterous provisions serves to prevent bad bills from becoming a binding law.".
"Solidarnosc" trade union responded to our reports with a press release. "We do not agree to unrestrained dismissals, both individual and group, lowering the salary, forcing on employees' half of their paid vacation leave during the lockdown, suspending collective labor agreements and regulations, taking over and freely using the company social benefit funds," reads the statement. "S" expects its members not to support such changes. "Regardless of the above, and despite the pandemic, NSZZ Solidarnosc will proceed with urgent preparations for protests" reads the statement.
The Council of Ministers is to adopt the new "shield" on Tuesday. The new rules will apply from May.
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