Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
Trade Union Revitalisation in Poland: Trends and Prospects 303
DAVID OST Trade Union Revitalisation in Poland: Trends and Prospects 1. Introduction Trade unions continue to have a hard time in Poland, as in other post- communist countries. The chief reason is the legacy of the communist past, which led to today’s weak unions, low membership, and low prestige, all of which present major obstacles to union revitalisation. There are signs of change in recent years, and they come from three sources: the experiences of actually-existing market societies, which are beginning to displace communist-era experiences as the baseline; the impact of the European Union, with its mandate for institutional- ised workplace representation and the resources to promote this; and innovativeness on the part of unions, itself a result of the previous two factors. Nevertheless, because unionism starts from such a weak level, and the postcommunist political culture has seen such a profound weakening of the union idea, it will take a long time for unions to regain their footing and be an influential force. It was the degradation of the work process that has proved to be the most damaging legacy the old system bequeathed to the new – or more precisely, the desire of skilled workers in the past to rectify that situation. That degradation, or the reduced value of skill, resulted both from communist-era emphasis of quantity over quality, and the massive influx of unskilled workers from the countryside into the fac- tories. Polish sociological research in the 1960s pointed to the dis- content this caused among the old,...
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