There is a shocking information that the parliament of Bolivia has passed law legalizing employment of children under the age of 10. The previous legislation in this country permitted for children’s employment under the age of 14. According to the survey carried out by the International Organization of Work in 2008 and the analysis of the government of Bolivia, about 850 thousand children at the age from 5 to 17 must work in this country. 90 per cent of them do the worst jobs , for example, collect sugar cane or work in mines. And one might think that Bolivia is a country fighting for the social justice, and its communism-introducing president Evo Morales owes his post to the support of the poor living there. None arguments of economic nature justify this cruel law. The situation in Bolivia reminds the conditions of work of weaving employees in Łódź or Żyrardów in the XIX century in the period of the bloodthirsty factory capitalism.

The issue of employees’ rights in eastern-European and Turkish factories does not look much better , where clothes for the EU market are sewed. Countries of Eastern Europe play a role of facility for cheap labour force for western-European makes and clothes companies. In nearly all factories producing for western-European companies, employees receive salaries below the threshold of poverty. Many of them must satisfy themselves with agricultural production or another job in order to earn their living at all.

Breaching elementary working rights is not a feature only of poor countries. It also happens in the richest countries. Employees of a company in Chicago can be in a toilet for maximum 6 minutes a day. At the entrance and exit to it they must bring closer a special card to a reader.

Temporary contracts as an instrument of capitalists

The employment world is getting worse also in Poland. As it is known, the current governmental coalition raised the retirement age to 67. Prolonging the period of professional activity for men by 2 years may not be so big, but by 7 years in the case of women it should be considered as a drastic attack at working rights. We should add that Germany has just decreased the retirement age, the governing coalition there enforced the decrease of the age to 63 for those who have paid fees for social benefits for 45 years.

Another example of breaching gained rights in Poland is an act about the annual period time settlement. Formally, 40 hours of work oblige in the week. An extra salary should be paid for overtime, and according to the double rate. However, the Seym decided that extra working time will be settled not in the three-month period as it has been so far, but in the year’s period. According to the previous regulations, working time over a monthly normal working hours could be compensated with extra days-off at a suitable moment for an employer without extra paid overtime in the period of 3 months. At present the time of not paying for overtime has been prolonged to 1 year. So, it may happen that an employee will have to work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, in order to take back days-off for example on Monday and Tuesday, but he will not receive an extra pay for work at weekend or on holidays. It can be considered as something certain that employers will carefully use the privilege of not paying for overtime.

About 450 thousand people in Poland work on the contract with specified time, although they should have a contract of full time. Nearly 40 per cent of commission contracts and over 60 per cent of contracts for specific work should be employment contracts. Every seventh terminal employment contract is concluded for a period of 5 years, and every fourth one – for at least 3 years. There are contracts concluded for 10 or even 20 years. Such data are presented by the State Inspection of Employment. Employees sentenced to ‘terminal contracts’ can be dismissed with 2 –week denunciation, without a duty of indicating reasons of such a decision. Terminal employment deprives employees of rights for holidays, sick leave and rights connected with safety and hygiene at work.

Cuts of costs

Exploitation of the employment world, however, is reflected in salary of the so-called human capital. According to the data of the Main Statistics Office, the share of remunerations was nearly 8 per cent of whole costs of private enterprises in Poland. In a group of small subjects the share of remunerations in costs was approximately 6.5 per cent, and in a group of micro-enterprises – only 4.9 per cent. Opinions of Polish entrepreneurs about too high costs of employment in the light of the above numbers are an ordinary lie, unworthy any discussion. No wonder that young Poles emigrate in search of good conditions of life. But the fact that it is not easy to find work abroad has been confirmed by many of them. Nearly 10 per cent of the homeless who are camping out in dormitories in London, are our compatriots who are forced to use help of charity organizations there. How derisive opinion of one of native oligarchs sounds who said in a discussion about international migrations that ‘one is going after work, not work is going after us’. Going to London on a business trip, he does not have to use services of those dormitories. He can only have a 5-star hotel. In order to diversify the delights of life, he can also go to Luxembourg or Cyprus where he has many companies and does not pay any taxes. And we can think that such fair businesses were appearing in Poland in the period of the martial law of the 80s of the last century. At that time workers were fighting for freedom of Homeland, whereas the others were already building savage capitalism under the cover of communist secret services. The latter ones, unfortunately, won.

Polish workers, however, have lots of good luck. In the light of the employment law they cannot recognize they life hard work at the age of 10, like their friends in Bolivia.


"Niedziela" 32/2014

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: