• “I quit France due to the unions”

    Employees from private companies do not often go on strike in Poland. Pictured: Strike of flight personnel at LOT Polish Airlines state-owned company in November. Photo: Dawid Żuchowicz / Agencja Wyborcza.pl.

    “I quit France in 2005: too many trade unions. Too many strikes. Too much complaining. Too much labour protection”
    – these words belong to Grégoire Nitot, founder and CEO of Sii, an IT company that operates in Poland.

    Nitot wrote them in an email in November to one of his employees, Krystian Kosowski, who wanted to establish a trade union in Sii. For the CEO, Kosowski was “attacking Sii”, and “motivated” his colleagues “to fight against Sii as well”. Eventually, the IT company fired him.

    The level of unionisation is low in Poland, barely at 12.9%. But the country has a rich tradition of trade unions. In the 1980s, more than 10 million citizens belonged to the opposition “Solidarność” (Solidarity) movement, which overthrew the communists in 1989. However, the end of communism and the collapse of many state-owned enterprises led to the exclusion of trade unions.

    Thus, Poland, where unions are lacking or poorly organised, is again starting from scratch when it comes to defending workers’ rights.

    This article is part of the "Europe takes to the streets" edition
    The winter of dissent
    UK unions stand their ground
    “I quit France due to the unions”
    Number of the week: 132
    The forgotten people power