COVID-19: Polish unions united in ATM negotiations

7 May 2020


Several Polish unions, including ETF affiliate Krajowa Sekcja Pracowników Transportu Lotniczego i Obsługi Lotniskowej have been negotiating with the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency for the past few weeks. The aim was to come up with a social partner agreement regarding measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Negotiations first presented a test for unions – and they passed. All fourteen of them managed to find a collective voice and formulate a proposal they could all agree on. It wasn’t easy, as the proposal includes salary reductions to save jobs and working conditions. Despite past disagreements, the union side managed to rise above conflicts to save the company. The proposal they put forward was fair, distributing the weight of the economic crisis to all employees proportionally.

The employer, however, did not demonstrate the same level of maturity and responsibility. Despite being named a “trustworthy employer” in 2019, it failed to live up to its title and refused to accept any concessions for the management. They refused to reduce their salaries to protect lower-paid workers. Moreover, they defended their extra-legal bonuses, effectively reducing the salaries of employees even further. Finally, the employer even attempted to reduce the social fund that is supposed to offer financial support to workers in emergencies.

In addition to the lack of cooperation from the employer’s side, the fact that negotiations were conducted via video calls made the situation even more difficult. The “trustworthy” employer’s acting CEO even left the negotiating table more than once during negotiations, depriving unions of the right to express their own opinion.

Arrogance was communicated every step on the way, most clearly evident in the fact that the employer refused to discuss alternative proposals and gave unions an ultimatum, trying to force them to accept his version of the deal.

The whole situation is ongoing, with groups of workers that have lower salaries, such as admin staff, being hurt the most. After trade unions communicated the issue to the government, the employer this week produced a new proposal, which once again fails to address the needs of the workers.

Despite the obstacles, the unions are committed and will continue to represent the ATM workers in these negotiations.