WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
BWI affiliates in Poland urged the government to take serious measures to secure workers’ income and protect the poorest of the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unions made this call after it considered the government’s support package for workers insufficient as it allows companies to reduce wages and does not increase unemployment benefits currently at EUR 100 to 200 (USD 108 -217) per month.
The Budowlani trade union also said that many workers were laid off last March, with more expected this month. The union said that even as most of the large construction sites continued operations, many small and micro companies went bankrupt or have suspended their activities.
It was reported that the government will only shoulder half the monthly minimum wage (EUR 568) of each worker or half the pre-crisis wage if a company reduces working hours by 20 percent (but only up to 40 percent of the medium wage). This is supposedly part of the Polish Parliament’s EUR 46 billion (USD 50 B) package approved last March to support companies and workers affected by the pandemic, and inject more money into the health system. The government said that the key elements of the package aim to help companies pay the salaries of their workers. However, trade unions argued that the package puts workers in a situation where the poorest would shoulder the cost of the crisis.
The government said it will provide self-employed and contractual workers a one-off payment of around EUR 450 (USD 489) if their incomes fall, while small companies employing up to nine people will see their social insurance contributions waived for the next three months. It also pledged to ease access to liquidity for companies, delay some tax and social insurance contributions, automatically extend work permits for foreign workers and provide paid leave for working parents whose children are at home because of school closures.