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(en) Poland, WORKERS' INITIATIVE: How the government fought the teachers' strike [machine translation]

Date Thu, 3 Oct 2019 10:23:04 +0300

Solidarity poster OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza ---- The teachers' strike lasted from April 8 to 26, 2019. 14,000 branches and 600,000 people employed there took part in it. It was the largest strike after 1989. ---- From the very beginning, the government tried to weaken the strike by various methods - both legal and non-legal. Some of them can be described as classic - intimidation, disinformation, humiliation, refusing to negotiate to bleed a strike. The remaining methods are quite new in the case of conflicts in education, and even collective disputes in Poland - rapid changes in educational law depriving strikers' competences, giving special rights to persons outside school staff, and finally omitting the act on resolving collective disputes and conducting negotiations outside trade unions. Below is an overview of these methods.

Myths, lies, intimidation and insults or information policy of the government and the party

Number of striking outposts

From the first day of the strike, the government tried to misinform public opinion by reducing the number of strikers and the number of people participating in the strike. The Ministry of National Education reported that 48.5% of schools joined the strike. This was supposed to indicate weak support for the strike. Public figures less than 50% allowed public television to announce that "more than half of the schools did not go on strike." ZNP reported other numbers. According to him, about 70% of the outlets went on strike. The discrepancy of data, in addition to bad will, could have come from a different way of counting the total number of schools and kindergartens by the ministry and the ZNP. The Ministry of National Education (MEN) doubled or even repeatedly counted some schools, including types of schools in statistics, e.g. technical schools, vocational schools and high schools within one employer - the school complex.

Collecting data on strikers

On April 10, the Ministry of National Education, through a team supporting the education database - the Educational Information System (SIO) - ordered school heads to register persons participating in the strike, together with the dates of their "absence" from school. This was read by the directors, teachers and teachers as an attempt to evoke fear of possible consequences for participating in the strike. On April 12, the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection recognized this as unlawful, because the law regulating the functioning of this database contains a closed catalog of registered reasons for "absence", and the strike is not one of them. For our part, we would like to add that the strike is not an absence from work, but merely a refusal to carry it out. During the strike, presence in the workplace is required[1], attendance lists are drawn up, the employer is to ensure the safety of striking people, moreover, even an accident during a strike is considered an accident at work. It is hard to consider the striking person absent.

One law we create, we circumvent another - that is, new methods to combat the strike of teachers

Labor Inspectorate in action

To intimidate the strikers, the government also tried to use an institution established to protect the employed. Because the collective dispute must be submitted to the labor inspectorate, just before the strike, the Ministry of National Education began to send inspectors to schools to check if there is a collective dispute. Of course, the labor inspectorate has no right to investigate the legality of strikes, it can only punish the director of the facility for not reporting a collective dispute. However, the top-down order to send inspections to schools was another way to disinform, panic and intimidate facility directors, who mostly supported the protesters' demands. The inspectors themselves complained to the press that they felt abused and opposed that labor inspectorate should be treated as a political tool used to combat strikes.

Appointment of examination boards

Even before the strike, because already on April 2, the Minister of Education changed the rules of appointing examination committees for examinations conducted in elementary and junior high schools and high schools in case of "difficulties in forming a team consisting of teachers of a given institution" - of course, it was about the difficulties caused by the strike. The new ordinance allowed to appoint to the examination boards persons not working in a given school, including persons who are not teachers but only possessing pedagogical qualifications. At the same time, the same ordinance changed the maximum number of students per assistant examiner - from 20 to 25, which allowed less staff to be used to carry out the examinations. Thanks to the new regulations during the junior high school exam on April 10-12, striking teachers replaced retired people,

Admission to the final exams by directors and even local government

In connection with the approaching final exams and the danger of their postponement, Prime Minister Morawiecki announced that he would introduce regulations that "in schools where pedagogical councils will not decide to admit the final exams, this right will be given to the director. And if the council and director do not want to make such decisions, such decisions will be taken by the local government. " Trying to take away some of the important competences of teachers, the prime minister tried to reduce the bargaining power of strikers as "superfluous" in the education process, which includes giving grades, classifications and examinations.

Mockery of the collective tender - Round Educational Table

After 10 days of strike, on April 18, Prime Minister Morawiecki decided to set up a new, legally unrestrained body to resolve the ongoing dispute over the salaries of teachers and teachers and the shape of education - the Educational Round Table. To participate in the deliberations of the round (physically rectangular) table were invited: three central units involved in the collective dispute: Solidarnosc, FZZ and ZNP, as well as numerous random organizations and persons, including 5 randomly selected teachers, 5 representatives of the party, the Chancellery of the President, parents' organizations, local government associations, non-governmental organizations, as well as individual experts such as Ewa Letowska, Michal Kleiber, Andrzej Wasko, and Henryk Domanski. It is worth emphasizing that all invited trade unions, including Solidarity, refused to participate in this undertaking. The first meeting of the "round" table took place the day after the strike was suspended - April 26. Until the end of the school year, the table, without trade unions, met three more times - on April 30, May 10 and June 17.


The largest mobilization of the Polish world of work since 1989 frightened the government so much that it began to use new measures, which have not been used so far to combat the strike. In addition to "classic" intimidation, playing on emotions, attempts to compromise strikers and attempts to prolong the duration of the strike, in order to inflict the greatest financial losses on employees, the government used the method of express law change and bypassed the act on resolving collective disputes to break a strike.

The change in ad-hoc regulations regarding the method of classifying students and conducting examinations has stripped strikers of their rights, and thus directly hit their bargaining power - qualifications to conduct the education process.

The Educational Round Table is an unprecedented attempt to move away from the law on resolving collective disputes. It is worth remembering that despite the boycott by the trade unions and the end of the strike, the table continues to deliberate and makes arrangements with the government without the participation of employees' representatives.

These tactics can be used by the government in the future and they are very dangerous for all sectors, especially employees of the budget sphere. It is worth being prepared for them.

Katarzyna Rakowska / Warsaw Environmental Commission


[1]The question of whether attendance at work is required during a strike is not clear-cut. As Piotr Krzyzaniak from the Working Group on Legal Affairs of OZZ IP points out:

The view that "attendance at work is required during the strike and attendance lists being drawn up" is completely inconsistent with what is considered a majority view in labor law doctrine and, until recently, a consensus. Until recently, K. Lisowski, who collaborated with striking teachers, expressed a different view.

K. Lisowski in his opinion titled Remuneration of teachers and school staff for the period of the strike "(published as a" practical commentary "in: LEX / el 2019) pointed out that"[...]an indispensable condition for joining a strike is his presence in the workplace (signing the list) - while refraining employee from performing work ". However, the author has not provided any evidence to prove this thesis. Such a view would require additional argumentation (which is lacking in this opinion), because it does not follow literally from Art. 17 clause 1 ursz Pursuant to this provision, the strike consists in collective refraining from performing work to resolve a dispute regarding the interests referred to in art. 1 ursz The legislator does not prejudge what "refraining from work" is supposed to consist in.

Until now, in literature, the problem of employee appearance at work was considered primarily in the context of demonstrating readiness to work - and thus this behavior was opposed to a strike. So e.g. dr hab. M. Kurzynoga in his book titled The conditions for the legality of the strike (LEX 2011) indicated (after W. Kulesza) that "the presence of strikers in the workplace is at least a comprehensive behavior, expressing readiness to provide work when the strike's goals are achieved."

In the commentary on art. 17 of the Act on the settlement of collective disputes, Dr. J. Zolynski (WKP 2012), explicitly indicates that "[u]the department in the strike abrogates the need to record working time, confirm attendance at work and the obligation to appear at the place indicated by the employer".

Whereas prof. H. Lewandowski, in his commentary to this provision (LexisNexis 2001), indicates the possibility - and not the obligation - to remain in the workplace during the strike. Anyway, this view is motivated by the fact that in the doctrine there were voices completely negating the possibility of staying in the workplace of an employee during a strike. For these reasons, many authors emphasized that coming to work during a strike is not always synonymous with limiting the workplace manager in performing his duties (Article 21 (1) ursz), and saying ask does not always mean an occupational strike, whose legality raises a lot of controversy to this day.

When trying to define a strike based on art. 17 authorities emphasize that this is not only about collective abstention from work but also about the lack of readiness to provide it. This is how the strike was defined by prof. B. Cudowski in his book Collective Disputes in Polish Labor Law (Bialystok 1998, p. 126), currently define it as dr hab. A. Tomanek in a commentary edited by prof. KW Baran (WKP 2019). The point is that coming to work is usually considered a sign of readiness to work. Therefore, when an employee comes to work during a strike, there is a problem of recognizing his intentions. The Supreme Court faced such a problem in its judgment of September 7, 2005, reference number II PK 390/04 (LEX No. 188096). Finally, the court found in those cases, that in the circumstances found there, despite the duration of the collective dispute, occupying the factory canteen by employees was not a strike, because their behavior implied that they wanted to be allowed to work. Of course, each such state of affairs requires a separate assessment.

The above indicates that arriving at the workplace contrary to K. Lisowski's claim is not the responsibility of an employee participating in a strike. As such an employee does not express readiness to perform work, he also does not have to perform any activities resulting from such readiness, and therefore does not have to appear at work. The authors who are right, such as prof. AM Swiatkowski (commentary edited by Wratny, Legalis 2009) or prof. H. Lewandowski (LexisNexis 2001) point to appearing in the workplace during the strike as an additional action, which serves to support the demands made in the collective dispute.

Of course, I understand the intention of K. Lisowski, who, pointing to the obligation to appear in the workplace of an employee during a strike, wanted to present an additional argument to support the thesis that the calculation of the benefits due to teachers during the strike does not apply the Regulation of the Minister of Labor and Social Policy of 29 May 1996 on the method of determining remuneration during the period of non-employment ... (consolidated text Journal of Laws of 2017, item 927). In my opinion, this argument is incorrect, and to prove that this regulation does not apply, it is enough to read the content of par. 1 and 2 of this Regulation. Simply put, this regulation only applies to the situations described there and there is no speech about participating in a strike!

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