CeDo, a manufacturer of bin-bags – a product, that like bread, continues to sell whatever the economic situation, has factories in the UK, Netherlands, Poland and Vietnam, and produces many of the white-label bags sold in the big supermarket chains, as well as under its own brand, Paclan. In its Kąty Wrocławskie plant, it employs over 500 people, of whom 430 work in production; global procurement and supply chain management is handled from Poland.
The meeting, attended by 30 people, mainly HR and operations managers from manufacturing businesses across the south and south-west of Poland began with an overview of the problems that employers are currently facing. This was presented by CeDo’s HR director, Dominika Frydlewicz, who presented examples of best practice used by CeDo to motivate employees, and to keep staff turnover rates down to acceptable levels. She talked about the importance of work/life balance and keeping employees healthy and unstressed. Ms Frydlewicz also mentioned the role of upward communication – from shop-floor to management – as an integral component of good motivation through continuous bottom-up improvement.
Andrzej Kulpa, president of recruitment agency KS Service, spoke about the changes to the law on temporary workers coming into force on 1 June 2017, and how these will affect the relationship between agencies and the end-user of the employee. A number of frequently used loopholes will be closed, preventing collusion between agencies and between agencies and employers. The changes will also affect employees from Ukraine, who are now becoming an established part of the Polish labour force. Freelance contracts will be scrutinised more carefully, equal treatment of employees regardless of their provenance will be insisted upon – and this means limits on working hours.
There followed a discussion about working with employees from Ukraine. Many want to work longer hours than the 40hrs + 8hrs overtime envisaged in the European Working Time Directive. Those who have come to Poland to maximise their earnings want to work 12 hour-days, at least in the short term. However, as several participants pointed out, those who seek stability, working and living in Poland, realise that such working practices are unsustainable in the long term.
Since 1 January, new rules concerning Ukrainian citizens working in Poland, and across the EU, but these have not yet been applied in Poland as it is not clear which level of local government is to implement them (poviat or voivodship). Participants at the meeting. The hospitality, agriculture and fisheries sectors have exceptions in this programme as the work there is by nature seasonal. The changes are expected to reduce the number of Ukrainian citizens who come to Poland and then look for work.
According to official statistics, 1,250,000 Ukrainian citizens currently work in Poland, of whom only 14% pay into ZUS (social security fund). And 15% work on the basis of a freelance umowa o dzieło contract, which suggests intellectual property changing hands. There was a question as to whether Ukrainians were likely to move to, say Germany, in search of higher wages. Mr Kulpa suggested that accommodation costs in western Germany had risen because of the ongoing influx of Middle Eastern migrants with a room in Munich costing around €700/month, while for cultural and linguistic reasons Ukrainians feel more comfortable in Poland.
Łukasz Chodkowski from consultancy Déhora focused on the optimisation of working time as part of the answer to the labour shortage. He said that strategic planning, anticipation of requirements well ahead into the future can help avoid bottlenecks and labour constraints. Mr Chodkowski said that many HR departments across Polish industry had become more professional in recent years, being able to take a strategic view, adding value to the business, rather than merely ensuring compliance with a complicated labour code.
Aleksandra Baranowska-Górecka from SDZ Legal spoke about the current clampdown on freelance work, and what alternatives existed for employers, in particular those in manufacturing. She said that more and more firms were considering working with the prison service, working with inmates either inside prisons, or, with suitable safeguards, on the employer’s premises. There were clear advantages to all parties of such an arrangement, she said.
After the formal part of the meeting, there was an opportunity to visit CeDo’s manufacturing plant, after suitable health and safety training and equipment had been provided. The plant makes bin bags from 100% recycled polyethylene, which is turned into granules, melted, then blown into a chimney-shaped bubble which cools as it rushes up towards, the factory roof; the long strips and perforated and drawstrings added along the sides. Very impressive!
The meeting was very positively assessed by participants in the feedback forms collected after the event.