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TITLE:  POLAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                             POLAND


Five years after the fall of Communism, Poland is a 
parliamentary democracy based on a multiparty political system 
and free and fair elections.  The popularly elected President 
(Lech Walesa) shares power with the Prime Minister, the Council 
of Ministers, and the bicameral Parliament.

The Government, composed of a coalition of the Democratic Left 
Alliance (SLD), a successor to the former Communist party, and 
the Polish Peasant Party, a successor to the United Peasants 
Party fellow travelers of the Communist era, enjoyed a 
comfortable majority in both houses of Parliament.  Prime 
Minister Waldemar Pawlak of the Peasant Party heads the 
Government.

The Polish armed forces and the internal security apparatus are 
subject to governmental authority and are under civilian 
control.  The precise division of authority over the military 
between the President and Prime Minister continued to be the 
subject of debate in 1994 and will probably be addressed as 
part of the new constitution being drafted by Parliament.

In 1994 Poland's fledgling market economy registered moderate 
growth (4.5 percent), and its level of exports increased 
significantly.  While unemployment has declined compared to 
previous years, it still stands at 16 percent, caused in part 
by the restructuring or closing of large state enterprises.  
Unemployment has disproportionately affected women and younger 
and semiskilled workers and brought discontent among Poles who 
believe that the rapid transition to a market economy has left 
them worse off than before.

The National Assembly (the Sejm and the Senate jointly) formed 
a constitution-drafting committee, which began its work during 
1994.  In May the Parliament approved and the President signed 
a bill permitting citizens to submit drafts for a constitution 
for consideration.  The Solidarity Union submitted such a draft 
in September, successfully meeting the law's requirement for 
500,000 petition signatures.  The National Assembly formally 
began consideration of that draft and others submitted by the 
President, the Senate, and five political parties in 
September.  There is no legal deadline for completion of work 
on the new constitution, but the chairman of the drafting 
committee proposed completing work in early 1995 and submitting 
a draft to a national referendum in the spring of 1995.

In April the Sejm ratified two human rights protocols 
accompanying the European Convention for the Protection of 
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  One of the protocols 
calls for respect for property rights, including movable goods, 
real estate, intellectual property, and securities.  The other 
states that parents have the right to bring up their children 
in compliance with their own religious and philosophical 
beliefs.

Some infringements on the rights of free speech and assembly 
continued in 1994.  Both the parliamentary opposition and media 
organizations vigorously opposed a draft law in Parliament that 
they saw as tending to revive censorship and incorporating too 
broad an interpretation of those official secrets requiring 
protection.  The lack of opportunity for women in the labor 
market remains a fact of life, despite some signs of 
improvement in recent years.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings.  The 
trial of the two Communist-era high-ranking secret police 
officers, Wladislaw Ciaston and Zenon Platek, charged with 
ordering the 1984 murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, ended in 
acquittal for lack of evidence.  Grzegorz Piotrowski, a former 
Polish security police captain jailed for the murder of 
Popieluszko, was released on parole in October.  An 
investigation into the alleged beating to death of two homeless 
persons by the police, launched in 1993 by the Warsaw 
prosecutor, was still not complete.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions, secret arrests, or 
clandestine detention by police or official security forces.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reported incidents of torture, but police 
allegedly used excessive force while arresting foreigners in 
incidents at the Warsaw train station in October.

Parliament passed a law in August limiting the possibility that 
a person may be committed to a mental institution against his 
or her will and outlining specific procedures to be followed in 
instances of involuntary commitment.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There were no reports of arbitrary arrest or detention.  Polish 
law allows a 48-hour detention period before authorities are 
required to bring formal charges, during which detainees are 
normally denied access to a lawyer.  Once a prosecutor presents 
the legal basis for a formal investigation, the law provides 
the detainee access to a lawyer.  A detainee may be held under 
"temporary" arrest for up to 3 months and may challenge the 
legality of his arrest through appeal to the district court.  A 
court may extend this pretrial confinement period every 3 
months until the trial date.  Bail is available, and human 
rights organizations reported that most detainees were released 
on bail pending trial.

There is no exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Poland has a three-tier court system, consisting of regional 
and provincial courts and a Supreme Court which is divided into 
five divisions--military, civil, criminal, labor, and family.  
Judges are nominated by the National Judicial Council and 
appointed by the President.  (Judges are appointed to the bench 
for life and may be reassigned but not dismissed, except by a 
decision of the National Judicial Council.  The judicial branch 
is independent of the executive branch.  The Constitutional 
Tribunal may offer opinions on legislation but has no authority 
to impose its decisions.  It is elected by the Sejm, which may 
overrule the Tribunal's findings.

All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  At 
the end of a trial, the court renders its decision orally and 
then has 7 days to prepare a written decision.  A defendant has 
the right to appeal a decision within 14 days of the written 
decision.  Appeals may be made on, among other grounds, the 
basis of new evidence or procedural irregularities.

Criminal cases are tried in regional and provincial courts by a 
panel consisting of a professional judge and two lay 
assessors.  The seriousness of the offense determines which is 
the court of first instance.  Once formal charges are filed, 
the defendant is allowed to study the charges and consult with 
an attorney, who is provided at public expense if necessary.  
When the defendant is prepared, a trial date is set.  
Defendants are required to be present during trial and may 
present evidence and confront witnesses in their own defense.  
The right to testify is universal.

Trials in Poland are normally public.  The court, however, 
reserves the right to close a trial to the public in some 
circumstances, such as divorce cases, trials in which state 
secrets may be disclosed, or cases whose content might offend 
"public morality."  The court rarely invokes this prerogative.

In March the human rights Ombudsman criticized the Interior 
Ministry for failing to allow the prosecutors' offices and 
courts access to evidence classified as a state secret.  The 
Ombudsman described this behavior as obstructing the citizens' 
right to a fair trial.  The trial of former secret police 
officer Adam Humer was still in progress at year's end.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Government does not arbitrarily monitor private mail or 
telephones.  There is no Polish legislation that guarantees the 
right to privacy, although Poland has signed the European 
Convention on Human Rights, which provides for that right.  
Poles do have the legal right to privacy of correspondence, and 
there was no evidence of violations.

The Government introduced draft legislation in Parliament in 
September which would give the police the power--with the 
personal approval of the chief prosecutor and the Interior 
Minister--to monitor private mail and telephone conversations 
in cases involving serious crimes, drugs, money laundering, or 
illegal arms sales.  The parliamentary opposition sought 
assurances that these expanded police powers would be subject 
to appropriate human rights safeguards but generally supported 
the need to expand the police force's ability to combat crime.

Polish law forbids arbitrary forced entry into homes.  Search 
warrants issued by a prosecutor are required in order to enter 
private residences.  In emergency cases when a prosecutor is 
not immediately available, police may enter a residence with 
the approval of the local police commander.  In the most urgent 
cases, in which there is not time to consult with the police 
commander, police may enter a private residence after showing 
their official identification.  There were no reports that 
Polish police abused search warrant procedures in 1994.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although these freedoms are generally provided for in the 
Constitution, they are subject to some restriction in law and 
practice.  Polish citizens may generally express their opinions 
publicly and privately.  Article 270 of the Penal Code, however,
states that anyone who "publicly insults, ridicules, and derides
the Polish nation, Polish People's Republic, its political 
system, or its principal organs is punishable by between 6 
months and 8 years of imprisonment."  Article 273 imposes a 
prison term of up to 10 years on a person who commits any of 
the acts prohibited by Article 270 in print or through the mass 
media.  Speaker of the Sejm Jozef Oleksy called in 1994 for 
revisions of these sections of the Constitution in order to 
ensure it complied with the European Convention on Human Rights 
in relation to freedom of speech.  Polish neo-Fascist activist 
Boleslaw Tejkowski was convicted in October of insulting Polish 
authorities, the Jewish minority, the Pope, and Polish bishops 
and received a 1-year suspended sentence.

The Penal Code stipulates that offending religious sentiment 
through public speech is punishable by a fine or a 2-year 
prison term.  An August cover of the popular weekly 
newsmagazine, Wprost, which showed an image of the Black 
Madonna and Child in gas masks to protect themselves from 
environmental pollution, raised a strong reaction among 
Poland's Catholic community, resulting in several legal 
complaints and demands from Catholic extremists that the 
magazine cease publication, prompting the editor to issue an 
apology.

The print media in Poland are uncensored and independent, 
although they may be subject to prosecution under the Penal 
Code provisions described above.  A proposal by some 
parliamentarians in June to create a national press council 
awakened concerns about the possible return of censorship in 
some form, and the idea was quietly dropped.

The Government owns a controlling interest in one major 
newspaper, which serves as the semiofficial newspaper of 
record.  It does not restrict the establishment of private 
newspapers.  Journals also appear regularly on newsstands.  
Books expressing a wide range of political and social 
viewpoints are widely available, as are foreign periodicals.  
Poles have access to foreign publications and foreign radio 
broadcasts.

The parliamentary opposition expressed strong concern over 
provisions in a draft law on the protection of state and 
official secrets presented to the Parliament in September which 
would make journalists and private citizens liable to prison 
terms for up to 10 years for disclosure of state secrets, 
broadly defined to include both military and government 
economic activity.  The opposition contends the law would 
unduly restrict the public's freedom of information.  After a 
major outcry from the press, consideration of the law was 
deferred pending approval of a new constitution.

Organized crime in Poland's larger cities poses a threat to 
reporters:  a journalist who covered organized crime was 
attacked in Gdansk during the summer, and in August the 
cafeteria of the Poznan offices of Gazeta Wyborcza, an 
influential daily, was bombed after the paper published a 
series of exposes about organized crime.

The National Broadcasting Council (NBC) supervises programming 
on public television, allocates broadcasting frequencies and 
licenses, and apportions subscription revenues.  The Council 
may interpret these very broad prerogatives at its discretion.  
In order to encourage the NBC's apolitical character, the nine 
NBC members are obliged under the law to suspend any membership 
in political parties or public associations.  However, they 
were chosen for their political allegiances and nominated by 
the Sejm, the Senate, and the President following political 
bargaining, raising serious questions about the independence of 
broadcasting from government influence.  Private broadcasters 
were concerned that the awarding of licenses for the limited 
number of broadcast frequencies available could be politically 
motivated.  After the awarding of the first nationwide 
television license, President Walesa withdrew his support from 
his three nominees and removed his nominee from the chair.  The 
President's right to intervene was taken to the Constitutional 
Tribunal, and after a court decision the three remained on the 
board, and Walesa named one of them chairman.

The NBC granted a nationwide concession for a private 
television network to the Polsat corporation in February; 
competitors alleged that the decision was legally flawed, and 
some charged it was taken under undue political influence.  In 
August the Government closed down 6 of 12 stations which the 
Polonia 1 network operated without authorization (in the 
absence of a law on broadcasting) since 1992, charging that the 
stations were operating on frequencies assigned to the 
military.  The foreign owner of Polonia 1, who competed 
unsuccessfully for the national television concession, claimed 
the action was politically motivated.  Polonia continued to 
operate six other local television stations, for which it had 
outstanding concession applications, and to broadcast to Poland 
via satellite from abroad.

The broadcasting law stipulates that programs should not 
promote activities that are illegal or against Polish state 
policy, morality, or the common good.  The law also requires 
that all broadcasts "respect the religious feelings of the 
audiences and in particular respect the Christian system of 
values."  The law does not fully define the term "Christian 
values."  Since the NBC has the ultimate responsibility for 
supervising the content of programs, these restrictions could 
be used as a means of censorship.  The penalty for violating 
this provision of the law is up to 50 percent of a 
broadcaster's annual fee for the transmission frequency, plus 
the prospect of having the license withdrawn or experiencing 
difficulty in renewing the license when it expires.

In March the Constitutional Tribunal declared that there was no 
contradiction between broadcasting law regulations, which 
prescribe respect for the Christian system of values in 
particular, and regulations concerning the pluralism of the 
public media and freedom of speech.  In its verdict the 
Tribunal stated that respect for Christian values was not 
tantamount to their propagation.  Observers concluded that the 
ruling made self-censorship more likely and left publishers and 
broadcasters with the threat of legal action if any individual 
feels his or her Christian values have been violated.  In June, 
acting on the request for an opinion by 89 deputies from the 
SLD, the Constitutional Tribunal confirmed that the requirement 
that broadcast programs "respect the Christian system of 
values" was constitutional.

The daily news editor of the main state television's evening 
news program was punished in May with a 1-month suspension from 
his duties for neglecting to broadcast anything about President 
Walesa's visit to Estonia.  The action was taken after the 
President's spokesman strongly protested the news program's 
failure to cover the visit.

Academic freedom is respected in Poland.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Poles may gather together formally and informally to promote 
nonviolent causes and to protest government policies.  Permits 
are not necessary for public meetings but are required for 
public demonstrations; demonstration organizers must obtain 
these permits from local authorities if the demonstration might 
block a public road.  For large demonstrations, organizers are 
also required to inform the local police of the time and place 
of their activities and their planned route.  Every gathering 
must have a chairperson who is required to open the 
demonstration, preside over it, and close it.  Major 
demonstrations of 20,000 to 40,000 protesters, organized by the 
Solidarity trade union in Warsaw in February and May, took 
place without incident.

In August a group led by Rabbi Avraham Weiss protested without 
incident the placement of religious symbols and the existence 
of a Roman Catholic chapel on the grounds of the former 
concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Private associations need governmental approval to organize and 
must register with their district court.  The procedure 
essentially requires the organization to sign a declaration 
that it will abide by the laws of Poland.  In practice, 
however, the procedure itself is complicated and may be subject 
to the discretion of the judge in charge.  In 1994 the courts 
denied an application for recognition from the Playboy 
Foundation, organized to support minorities on the basis of 
sexual preference, nationality, and ethnicity, on the grounds 
that the Foundation did not promote Polish national interests.  
The application, pending at the end of 1993, of the Wehrmacht 
veterans in Bydgoszcz to form a legal association was approved 
in 1994.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution, as amended, provides for freedom of 
conscience and belief, and citizens enjoy the freedom to 
practice any religion they choose.  Religious groups may 
organize, select and train personnel, solicit and receive 
contributions, publish, and engage in consultations without 
government interference.  There are no government restrictions 
on establishing and maintaining places of worship.

More than 95 percent of Poles are Roman Catholic, but Eastern 
Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, and much smaller Protestant, 
Jewish, and Muslim congregations meet freely.  Although the 
Constitution provides for the separation of church and state, 
state-run radio broadcasts Catholic mass on Sundays.  The 
Catholic Church is authorized to relicense radio and television 
stations to operate on frequencies assigned to the Church.  It 
is the only body outside the NBC allowed to do so.

Religious education classes continue to be taught in the public 
schools at public expense.  In June the Sejm passed a 
resolution postponing debate on ratification of the Concordat 
with the Vatican, signed in 1993, until the completion of work 
on a new constitution.  Critics of the Concordat have called on 
the Church to guarantee that all church marriages will be 
registered with civil authorities and to agree not to deny 
burial to non-Catholics in cemeteries it controls.

Although Catholic Church representatives teach the vast 
majority of religious classes in the schools, parents may 
request religious instruction in any of the religions legally 
registered in Poland, including Protestant, Orthodox, and 
Jewish.  Such non-Catholic religious instruction exists in 
practice, and instructors are paid by the Ministry of Education.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict internal or foreign travel.  
Citizens who have left Poland have no trouble returning.  There 
are no restrictions on emigration.

The Government generally cooperates with the United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian 
organizations in assisting refugees.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Poles have the constitutional right and the ability to change 
their government.  Poland is a multiparty democracy in which 
all citizens 18 years of age and older have the right to vote 
and to cast secret ballots.

Governmental power is divided between the President and 
Parliament, which is composed of an upper house (the Senate) 
and a lower house (the Sejm).  The Constitution provides for 
parliamentary elections at least every 4 years.  The President, 
elected for 5 years, has the right to dissolve Parliament 
following a vote of no confidence or when Parliament fails to 
pass a budget, and Parliament may impeach the President.

Women comprise some 15 percent of parliamentarians.  Of a total 
of 17 ministries, only 1 is headed by a woman.  One of three 
Vice Marshals of the Sejm is a woman.  The electoral law 
exempts ethnic minority parties from the requirement to win 5 
percent of the vote nationwide in order to qualify for seats in 
individual districts.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Helsinki Committee, a major nongovernmental organization, 
conducted human rights investigations without government 
interference in 1994.  Members of the Committee reported that 
the Government displays a generally positive and helpful 
attitude towards human rights investigations.

Two governmental organizations monitor human rights in Poland.  
The Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (the 
Ombudsman), established in 1987, is an independent body with 
broad authority to investigate alleged violations of civil 
rights and liberties.  The Ombudsman has no legislative 
authority and is sworn to act apolitically.  He registers each 
case that is reported to his office and files grievances, where 
appropriate, with the relevant government office.

The second governmental institution, the Senate Office for 
Intervention, investigates a wide range of grievances.  In 
addition to responding to grievances, it may also investigate 
judicial proceedings.  Created in 1989, the Office conducts 
investigations and refers legitimate cases to senators whom the 
investigator feels will be sympathetic to the grievance, 
regardless of their district or political affiliation.  If a 
senator does not wish to become involved in the case, the 
Office presents it to another senator or senators until it 
finds one willing to pursue the matter.  The Office does not 
release public reports.

There are no restrictions on visits by international 
organizations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Discrimination is generally prohibited by the Constitution, 
with specific clauses providing equal rights to women and 
religious minorities.

     Women

The Constitution provides for equal rights regardless of sex 
and accords women equal rights with men in all fields of 
public, political, economic, social, and cultural life, 
including equal pay for equal work.  In practice, however, 
women are paid less for equivalent work, on average hold lower 
level positions, are discharged more quickly, and are less 
likely to be promoted than men.  There are no laws providing 
legal redress for women subject to such discrimination or to 
sexual harassment at the workplace.

Although women are employed in a broad variety of professions 
and occupations, and a few women occupy high positions in 
government and in the private sector, legal barriers, such as 
clauses in social insurance law limiting child sick care 
benefits to women only and early retirement for women, 
encourage discrimination in hiring.

Polish law does not address equality in hiring practices (there 
are no legal penalties for discriminatory hiring practices), 
and advertisements for jobs frequently indicate a preference 
according to sex.  Women remain banned from working in 90 
occupations in 18 fields of industry, health care, forestry, 
agriculture, and transportation, but unions support the efforts 
of women to gain entry into these occupations.  The rise in 
unemployment and other social changes accompanying economic 
reforms and restructuring have hit women harder than men.  
Recent statistics suggest, however, that the unemployment gap 
between the sexes may be narrowing as general economic 
conditions improve.

Violence against women continued to be a problem in Poland, 
with occasional reports in the press of wife beating and 
spousal rape.  Centrum Kobiet, a women's group, commissioned a 
study which indicated that nearly 20 percent of married Polish 
women had been struck by their husbands on at least one 
occasion.  Police do intervene in cases of domestic violence, 
and husbands may be convicted for beating their wives.  A first 
offender is put on probation, while the penalty for a second 
offense is from 8 to 12 months in prison.

     Children

No special laws exist to ensure the protection of children.  
Child abuse is rarely reported, and convictions for child abuse 
are even rarer.

There are no procedures in schools to protect children from 
abuse by teachers; in fact, the teachers' work code guarantees 
a teacher legal immunity from prosecution for the use of 
corporal punishment in classrooms.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the leaders of the Roma community, the Roma faced 
disproportionately high unemployment and were more negatively 
affected by the current economic changes and reforms than were 
ethnic Poles.  Although the Catholic Church-sponsored school 
for Roma children in Suwalki has enjoyed limited success, the 
opening of a local school for Roma in Debica was delayed 
following an attack by hooligans on a Roma boy in November.

As a result of ethnic tensions between Poles and the minority 
Germans, there was a flurry of skinhead attacks against German 
motorists in 1992.  Six skinheads arrested in Krakow for 
assaulting German motorists and for the murder of a German 
truckdriver that year were sentenced at the end of January to 
prison terms ranging from 3 to 5 years.

     Religious Minorities

Legislation adopted in 1994 placed the Protestant churches in 
Poland on the same legal footing as Catholic and Orthodox 
churches.  The Protestants now have the same opportunity to 
claim restitution of property lost during the Communist era and 
benefit from the same tax reduction as that granted to the 
Orthodox and Catholic churches.  This law covers only church 
property seized by the People's Republic of Poland and 
consequently does not address either the issue of private 
property or Jewish religious property seized during World War 
II.

No violent anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 1994.  There 
are no significant anti-Semitic parties, although there is 
occasional anti-Semitic rhetoric at political rallies and 
demonstrations.  Both local and international Catholic-Jewish 
relations remained somewhat strained by the continued presence 
of a large cross and a chapel at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

There were isolated racially motivated incidents, including the 
painting of a swastika on a church building in Szczeczin.

     People with Disabilities

In 1991 the Government passed a number of laws protecting the 
rights of people with disabilities.  Implementation, however, 
falls short of the rights set forth in the legislation.  Public 
buildings and transportation are generally not accessible to 
people with handicaps.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

All workers, including the police and frontier guards, have the 
legal right to establish and join trade unions of their own 
choosing, the right to join labor federations and 
confederations, and the right to affiliate with international 
labor organizations.  Independent labor leaders reported that 
these rights were largely observed in practice.  As few as 10 
persons may form a trade union, and 30 may establish a national 
union.  Unions, including interbranch national unions and 
national interbranch federations, must be registered with the 
courts.  A court decision refusing registration may be appealed 
to an appeals court.  As of September, 223 national unions were 
registered.

The Independent Self-governing Trade Union (NSZZ) Solidarity is 
affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions and the World Confederation of Labor.  Solidarity 
membership has fallen below 2 million (with roughly 80 percent 
paying dues).  Spinoffs from mainstream Solidarity include the 
Christian Trade Union Solidarity, Solidarity '80, and a 
militant rival which broke away to form "August '80."  
Solidarity '80 split into two rival factions in June.  There 
are no reliable estimates of the membership of these unions.

Other unions include the All-Poland Trade Union Alliance 
(OPZZ), the Communist-inspired trade union registered in 1984 
as the sole legal alternative to the then-repressed NSZZ 
Solidarity, the ex-official miners' union, and the teachers' 
unions (ZNP).  The OPZZ claims a membership of 4.5 million, a 
figure independent observers reject as highly inflated.  The 
Sejm's passage in August of an overhauled collective bargaining 
law did not require that a trade union be "representative," 
with its membership figures verified and its finances based on 
dues-paying members, in order to be considered a legal 
negotiating partner.  As a result, Solidarity continued to 
boycott some negotiations with the OPZZ on the grounds that the 
latter's membership figures exaggerated its strength at the 
bargaining table.

There was no resolution in 1994 of the longstanding dispute 
over Solidarity assets seized during the martial law period and 
still administered by the OPZZ.  In June Solidarity formally 
protested the lack of progress to the International Labor 
Organization (ILO).  In April the European Trade Union 
Confederation declined to cooperate with the OPZZ, largely 
because of the outstanding assets dispute.

Polish trade union organizations operate independently of state 
control and are active in politics.  In alliance with the 
Social Democrats of the Republic of Poland, the OPZZ, the ZNP, 
and several others maintain a strong, 60-seat presence in the 
Sejm under the banner of the SLD.  The Solidarity trade union 
has a 11-member caucus in the Senate, while the trade union 
wing of the Confederation of Independent Poland, Kontra, has 1 
deputy in the Sejm.

The 1991 Trade Union Act prescribes a lengthy process before a 
union may call a strike.  In August the Government announced it 
would seek to shorten this process.  The law, when strictly 
adhered to, provides several opportunities for employers to 
challenge a pending strike, including the threat of legal 
action.  An employer must start negotiations the moment a 
dispute begins.

Negotiations end with either an agreement between the parties 
or a protocol describing their differences.  If negotiations 
fail, a mandatory mediation process ensues; if mediation fails, 
the trade union may launch a warning strike for a period of up 
to 2 hours or seek arbitration of the dispute.  Both employers 
and employees have frequently questioned the impartiality of 
the mediators.

A full-fledged strike may not be launched until 14 days after 
the dispute is announced (strikes are prohibited entirely in 
the Office of State Protection, and in units of the police, 
firefighters, military forces, prison services, and frontier 
guards).  The union may call a strike after approval by a 
majority of voting workers, announcing it at least 5 days in 
advance.  If the strike is organized in accordance with the 
law, workers retain their right to social insurance benefits 
but not pay.  If a strike is "organized contrary to the 
provisions of the law," workers may lose social benefits, and 
organizers are liable for damages and may face civil charges 
and fines.  Laws prohibiting retribution against strikers are 
not consistently enforced; the fines imposed as punishment are 
so minimal that they are not effective sanctions against 
illegal employer activity.

The Government's "strategy for Poland," announced in June, 
includes a comprehensive attempt to adapt the many existing, 
outdated laws governing labor activity to the emerging market 
economy.  In August the Government sent a revised labor code to 
the Sejm, in effect abandoning the landmark February 1993 "Pact 
on State Enterprises" which had set forth a detailed framework 
for dealing with labor-related issues and to which the unions, 
employers, and Government had agreed.  In September the 
Government announced it would send legislation to the Sejm 
proposing important changes in existing laws governing trade 
unions, employers, and the resolution of labor disputes.  Its 
aim is to establish the legal framework governing all aspects 
of work in a market economy and to bring Polish laws into line 
with ILO conventions and European Union practices.  In the 
interim, legal ambiguities continued, leading to some labor 
tensions, including a 9-week protest campaign in the spring led 
by Solidarity and a 48-day strike at the Huta Lucchini steel 
mill in Warsaw.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1991 law on trade unions and the resolution of collective 
disputes generally created a favorable environment to conduct 
trade union activity.  In August the Government announced its 
intention to reduce some employer-provided, union-related costs 
in enterprises with a large number of unions (some as many as 
50).

Weaknesses in the 1991 law included inadequate sanctions for 
antiunion discrimination and no explicit prohibition of 
lockouts.  The law also lacked specific provisions to ensure 
that a union has continued rights of representation when a 
state firm undergoes privatization, commercialization, 
bankruptcy, or sale.  Labor leaders claimed that this ambiguity 
led to underrepresentation of unions in the large and growing 
private sector.  There were also a number of confirmed cases in 
which Solidarity activists were dismissed for labor activity 
permitted under Polish law, including organizing strikes.

Unions, management, and workers' councils currently set wages 
in ad hoc negotiations at the enterprise level.  When 
collective agreements have been reached at the national or 
branch level, they have routinely been ignored or overtaken by 
enterprise-level disputes.  Nevertheless, collective bargaining 
as a system of industrial relations is expected to encompass an 
ever larger percentage of the work force.  By year's end, both 
unions and employers were preparing themselves for such a 
relationship.  The Government repeatedly stated its intention 
not to be drawn into labor disputes.

The Government continued its effort to link wages to increased 
productivity and reduce inflationary pressures in the state 
sector; the so-called neo-popiwek tax penalty was imposed on 
any firm which increased its average wage in excess of a 
government-set "coefficient."  Both Solidarity and the OPZZ 
challenged the tax in the Constitutional Court.  The law 
providing for the excess wage tax was due to expire at the end 
of 1994.

Current government policy aims to liberalize investment 
procedures for both domestic and foreign firms rather than 
promote special incentive programs.  Special duty-free zones 
exist in or have been contemplated for some 15 to 20 locations 
throughout Poland but, with the exception of a zone in Poznan 
and another in Mielec (in southeastern Poland), have not 
attracted much attention.  Thus, traditional export processing 
zones that relax legal guarantees do not, at this time, 
comprise a threat to workers' rights to organize.  However, 
collective bargaining either does not exist there or is in its 
early stages of development.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor does not exist, although it is not prohibited 
by law.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code forbids the employment of persons under the age 
of 14.  Persons aged 15 to 18 may be employed only if they have 
completed basic schooling and if the proposed employment 
constitutes vocational training and is not harmful.  The age 
floor rises to 18 if a particular job might pose a health 
danger.  The Government enforces legal protection of minors, 
but its inability to monitor the growing private sector, which 
now accounts for some 60 percent of all employment, leaves 
officials less certain that the problem does not exist.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A national minimum wage is negotiated every 3 months by the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the trade unions.  
Minimum monthly wages for employees of state-owned enterprises 
were roughly $105 (Zl 2,400,000) at the October 1 exchange 
rate, which was insufficient to provide a worker and family a 
decent standard of living.  The minimum monthly wage has the 
force of law, but a significant number of foreign guest workers 
received less than the minimum, especially in the construction 
and agricultural sectors.  The average gross monthly wage rose 
to roughly $220 (Zl 5,080,000).  Despite several recent annual 
increases in gross domestic product, real wages declined.

There is a standard legal workweek of 42 hours which allows 6- 
or 7-hour days, including at least one 24-hour rest period.

The Legal Code defines minimum conditions for the protection of 
workers' health and safety.  Enforcement is a growing problem 
because the State Labor Inspectorate is unable to monitor the 
ever-increasing portion of economic activity that is in private 
hands and where a growing percentage of accidents take place.  
In addition, there is a lack of clarity concerning which 
government or legislative body has the responsibility for 
enforcing the law.  Of the 103,073 cases of work-related 
accidents that were reported in 1993, 655 involved deaths.  
This represents 9 accidents per 1,000 workers, a slight upward 
trend since 1992.  The Government itself has noted that work 
conditions are poor and sanctions minimal.  Standards for 
exposure to chemicals, dust, and noise are routinely exceeded.


(###)

[end of document]

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