Poland does away with the 8-hour day

Poland does away with the 8-hour day

The avant-garde of neoliberal horrors has finally done away with the 8-hour working day.

On June 13, the Polish government eliminated the 8-hour working day, a right which was won in 1919. The government supposedly is trying to make Poland even more "competitive" for capitalists who want to earn more through exploiting the poor worker protection in the country and the scandalously low wages.

This is a major attack to the working class, smuggled by with little notice of the world press and little protest of the collaborationist unions. Poland is the laboratory for the introduction of the worst neoliberal dismantling of workers rights and the working class lived up to their masters' expectations by keeping at work, begging for crumbs from their masters' hands. If it went so smoothly here, one wonders where they will strike next.

The elimination of the 8 hour day is accomplished by increasing accounting periods for calculating the average amount of hours worked for the whole year and by also introducing flexible working hours. In the past, you had to have a certain resting time between your shifts and if your shifts were moved from day to day, it could be considered outside your normal working time. You would then be entitled to overtime pay. The new rules allow bosses to impose much longer working days, so long as if some other time of the year they cut the hours. For workers in some industries and areas, this could mean long days for all their working time, and a few months of idleness, instead of stable working hours. It is also not clear what rights workers who are hired temporarily (for example for 6 months) would have under this scheme. What is clear is that already for many years, Polish employers openly defy whatever rights workers still have and nobody wants to crack down on them.

In the meanwhile, workers are facing a myriad of unprecented attacks against their well-being. However most are disorganized, controlled by concessionist unions or uncertain about their ability to act, being afraid of widespread repression. Yet others have been successfully brainwashed by years of neoliberal propaganda from every corner.

The ammendments to the Labor Code were drafted by a young and eager neoliberal careerist, trying to win the favour of the state puppetmasters. Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz is a 32-year old doctor who first ran for the City Council of Krakow in 2010. He was not elected, but took the place on the list of another. With all of this "experience", about one year later, he was made Minister of Labor (!!!) and the next day became vice-chair of the PSL party. He introduced the ammendments to the Labor Code which effectively abolish the guaranteed 8-hour working day.

Not that Kosiniak-Kamysz is the only villian. He is clearly in his job to do the dirty work of the employers' lobby, business and political interests. They apparently see no limits to what they can force on the people, since they have been given a green light and an open road by all those who have swallowed their neoliberal medicine for far too long.

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Jun 15 2013 12:59


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Jun 16 2013 05:04

Could you provide a source for this information?

Jun 17 2013 14:34

There is even more slimy stuff about the ammendment. The employer does not have the obligation to provide workers with the same salary throughout the year. So, if you work only 9 months out of 12, due to the overtime in that period, the employer has the right to pay only at the minimal wage during the months "not working".

Nice, huh?

Jun 17 2013 14:52
akai wrote:
There is even more slimy stuff about the ammendment. The employer does not have the obligation to provide workers with the same salary throughout the year. So, if you work only 9 months out of 12, due to the overtime in that period, the employer has the right to pay only at the minimal wage during the months "not working".

Nice, huh?

hi, sorry what you mean by overtime here?

Also, do you have a link to a mainstream media source about this? I had a look but couldn't find anything in English

Jun 17 2013 21:17

Let's say you work 12 hours a day. If your accounting period for calculating overtime is say, per month (let's say 4 weeks), then if you exceeded 160 hours of labor in that period, you can get overtime pay. If you have a longer accounting period for legally determining what is "overtime", you average the number of hours over that period of time. So, let's say it is 2 months and you worked 240 hours one month, but 80 the next, you would not have any overtime for the month where you worked a lot.

So in Poland you can extend the accounting period to 12 months. This means that if you work 12 hours a day all the time, you finish your yearly working hours in 9 months. In production or some job which has slow periods and busy times, they can load you with work and then you are "free" not to come those last 3 months. Only the problem is that they can pay you minimum wage then. So even though you worked those hours, you are not getting your normal remuneration. So, let's say you earn 200 euros a month more than minimum wage, but are made to do all your yearly work in 9 months - you could lose 600 euros from your yearly salary.

I don't think it is complicated to understand, although I am sure this is exotic for many.

I haven't seen anything on this in English, except what we are writing. That the foreign press is silent is no surprise, but it is terrible that labor activists say nothing. Perhaps the very poor showing of the local unions in fighting this matter is responsible for this news going under the radar.

Jun 17 2013 22:14

Hi, many thanks for that explanation.

It wasn't clear to me because that is not a right which we had in the UK anyway. Here, quite a lot of people now are on zero hour contracts, for example, where you just get paid for each hour you work. Or you get term time workers, for example, in schools: they do not get paid for the holidays at all (other than the standard holiday pay everyone gets). And overtime pay isn't something there is legislation about, it is dependent on the employer.

In terms of mainstream media, do you have a link to somewhere talking about this in Polish?

(By the way I don't know if you have noticed but this article has proved very popular, especially on Facebook, so thanks!)

Jun 18 2013 05:02

In Poland we have two types of employment: we have "trash contracts" and employment contracts. Trash contracts are civil contracts where workers do not receive the guarantees under the Labor Code. In fact, many, if not most, trash contracts are concluded to circumvent the law and the employers in that case can be found liable in court to pay all missing benefits.

Our old Labor Code, in fact was not too bad in comparison to what you say, even if there is so much done to avoid its provisions.

But please don't miss the point here. The article is not really about overtime pay, but about working hours. However, overtime pay and pay are parts of the new problem too.

I sent some links above to mainstream media sources.

Jun 18 2013 09:09

Hi, thanks for that clarification, and don't worry I wasn't missing the point I was just wanting to find out more about the basics of employment law in Poland. Thanks for the source links as well.

Jun 18 2013 15:26

No problems. Wish there was something in English, but this issue is not "spectacular" enough for world labor. Again, a problem of the bigger unions not fighting. This will be really a miserable situation for many manufacturing workers, who you know, have quite low wages in Poland. This sort of stuff might be more acceptable to workers who make a living wage, but not to ones who feel ultra-exploited already.

Jun 22 2013 22:30

what do you by government in the original text? is the new labour code a fact now or does it have to be approved by the parliament now (in Slovakia what the Government agrees on has to be then approved in the parliament)?

btw. the overtimes are nothing new. in slovakia the flexi parts of the labour code are very similar and as, you know, in belgium the overtime is paid in a very similar way (calculated not on a daily but monthly basis). i believe many other countries have this shit in their laws, too.

Jun 23 2013 09:02

Well, the new Labor Code even has to be signed by the President, but since it was the President's neo-liberal vultures who forced in the changes, there is little hope he won't sign it. The Parliament voted for it. It will come into force later (I have to check the date, but usually it is a couple of months after enactment).

Well, of course many places calculate overtime on a monthly basis, but a yearly basis? And combined with everything else, it is completely crazy.

Also, although it is interesting to know how it is in other countries, this changes nothing about our protest. In Poland it is a very typical tactic of the neo-liberals to say stuff like, aha, you want a minimum wage? But in X country they have no minimum wage and workers are not complaining. So we hope comrades support our campaign and not think like "so what" because that type of attitude is not right - we cannot accept this shit anywhere.

The main trade union in Poland, Solidarity, is now organizing a general strike in September against these changes. Although we are sure this is too little, too late, it is a rather big step in Poland, which hasn't had any general strike in so long. So of course we have to critically support, but mentioning the strike has to be wider, longer term and more radical.

In the meantime, we do not accept these changes and will do what little we can do get people against it.

Jun 27 2013 07:56

The has been some reactions of the mainstream unions. Rank and file members of Solidarity voted overwhelmingly for a general strike. However, this has to be approved by the leaders and they are showing some hesitance.

Yesterday, all three "representative" unions declared a boycott on the Tri-Partite Commission. They declared they would not participate in any "social dialogue" until the amendments are vetoed or changed and the Minister of Labor is fired. The PM responded by saying he would go today to the Commission to "explain the economic situation" to the unions. It is not clear whether they will be sheepish and go to this bullshit session.

The Solidarity leadership is playing a game with this strike, not actually calling it. The other unions have not decided on any strike yet, although OPZZ said they might have a hunger strike. Solidarity named two possible dates for a "big demonstration" - one of which is a Sunday, so... not a strike.

The unionists have said that they will make informational campaigns in the summer. In the meanwhile, we are making campaigns with what resources we have (which are infinitely smaller than unions with hundreds of thousands of members). We organized several actions in different cities around Poland and have more planned in July and August. Now we will also be making agitation with the unions, to push them towards a general strike, even if it will be just a symbolic one, because their inaction is intolerable. Of course at the same time, we call for striking until we win and recall the fact that although we all need to fight for the return of the 8-hour norms, we have slogans for reducing that. We recall and are spreading the IWA resolution from 1928 about the 6 hour day and will add our own arguments as to why even 40 hours per week is just exploitation.

Jul 8 2013 16:38


I can't thank you enough for posting this!

I'm with the Labor Solidarity Committee of the Lehigh Valley IWW (United States) -- a few of us were shocked by the fact that this page right here is the ONLY source in English regarding this issue. We've issued a statement standing in solidarity with Polish workers who are affected by this drastic rollback of labor rights. We issued a statement, which you can view by clicking here.

I'm really glad to see your group providing a militant labor presence in your country, and I hope that the business unions over there will wise up and get their heads out of their asses. We have the same situation here regarding organized labor, and the employing class has tried (and narrowly failed) to push "flex time" arrangements on us, as well.

Keep in touch, keep posting, and keep us updated! Let us know if we can help in any way.



Jul 8 2013 19:09

Jim, thanks a lot! I will get that translated and let people know.

Basically, just us, the Polish Socialist Party and part of the Anarchist Federation have been out on the streets about this, although the main unions said they would be doing actions in the summer. The membership of Solidarity has voted overwhelmingly to have a general strike, but the union bosses have yet to call it. There are talks, with a lot of activists pushing for a general strike in September, which would be the first one since the transformation. A lot of more active members (mostly low-level shop stewards) are even creating their own general strike material, even though their unions have not decided on it yet. We will see.

We published a call for the rank and file to push the strike and for other workers not in those main unions to join. A lot of these low-level shop stewards liked this and now some union web pages and FB have this one their pages. Unfortunately these people who would take action are not the real decision makers. We of course would love for them to act independently of the union bureaucrats (but probably won't happen now).

We keep going on with whatever info actions we can make. We'll be back on the street this weekend. Some info about pickets are here in English: http://www.zsp.net.pl/zsp/english

One more important thing is that the government is taking revenge for the unions even threatening a strike by writing a draft of an amendment of the Act on Trade Unions that would take away some of their priveleges. (Not that I agree with all them, but what the government is doing is terrible.)

Any solidarity is welcome and thank you so much for the initiative! Of course if this general strike does take place, surely it would be nice for people to show their support in any way they can.

Jul 8 2013 19:12

PS, just one small thing. I may have written about 12-hour days as an example but the maximum work week would be 13 hours a day, 6 days a week. Shit, huh?

Jul 8 2013 22:07

Yeah, thanks for the update Akai, and good on you and your comrades for leading the fight on this, or doing your best at least!

Jul 11 2013 23:08

Indeed, worse than we thought!

Thanks again for the update and for looking into translating the statement, and keep fighting -- we're behind you!

Sep 5 2013 03:57

The changes to the Labor Code proposed here in Croatia, and soon to be debated and very probably enacted, also tend in a similar direction of course, though they mainly focus on the constraints to layoffs.
Is there any news to this? And fuck me if a sixty plus hour working week is something that can even come as a thought. But sadly, it is much more than a mere thought.

daniel dreveny
Sep 13 2013 17:46


For general strike in Poland – protest visit at the Polish embassy


On Thursday, 12th September, Priama akcia visited the embassy of the Polish Republic in Bratislava. We presented a protest letter to a deputy of the ambassador, in which we expressed our support to the workers’ protests against the worsening working and social conditions.

New labour laws were passed in Poland in June that, for example, do away with the 8 hour working day. Instead of organizing a general strike, the major trade unions called for four days of protests (from 11th to 14th September), despite the rank-and-file’s support of the general strike.

Our protest was a reaction to the call of our sister organization the ZSP (IWA/AIT Poland). We ourselves know very well the situation, in which the large unions are inactive or act in a way that demoralizes the workers instead of supporting them. We keep our fingers crossed for the ZSP and all the workers who are drawing the attention to the negative changes, and also pushing for the notion of general strike as an answer to the constantly worsening working conditions.

We will publish information about the situation in Poland and activities of the workers on our website.

Priama akcia

Sep 13 2013 19:10

Sounds straight up as something coming from the South Korean government... Shit! This is terrible. Thanks for doing the write-up.