Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
Trade unions are social organisations that associate working people, which includes not only employees but also certain categories of contractors (however, in practice, contractors rarely form or join trade unions). They are a voluntary form of self-organising that operate on the basis of statutorily shaped organisational structures, which have a legal personality. Trade unions represent employees and protect their dignity, rights and material and moral interests, both collective and individual. They also have a right to represent employees’ interests internationally. Trade unions co-participate in creating advantageous conditions for work, life and rest.
Employers’ associations on the other hand, are corporate organisations that have the status of a legal person based on the collectiveness of their members. Such organisations protect the employer’s rights and interests in employment relations. Therefore, they aim at protecting business, financial, economic as well as organisational and functional interests. All employers are entitled to the freedom to form an employer association.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
As organisations aimed at representing employees and protecting their interests, trade unions are authorised to appear on their behalf, to conduct collective negotiations and to conclude collective labour agreements, as well as other agreements, to ensure appropriate working conditions. They also oversee whether the labour law is being observed and participate in supervising the rules and regulations of health and safety at work. They are also authorised to issue opinions regarding labour law development.
As a result, trade unions may exercise considerable influence over the distribution of the national income and the content of legislative decisions concerning labour legislation and social insurance. As a result, trade unions may exercise considerable influence over the distribution of the national income and the content of legislative decisions concerning labour legislation and social insurance. Trade unions ensure that the employer complies and appropriately implements the labour legislation. They also play a critical role in shaping policies on working conditions.
Polish labour law does not provide for employees or their representatives to participate in managing the employer’s business, with the exception of commercialising state entities in which employees retain the right to elect some members of the supervisory board and the management board.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
In some cases (e.g., within the procedure of collective dismissals), in the event when there is no trade union at a workplace, the employer must conduct consultations with representatives of the employees. The principles of electing employee representatives are defined at each employer separately. Employers with at least 50 employees can establish a works council. It is up to the employees to demand the establishment of a works council, after being informed of passing the 50 employee threshold by the employer. The rights of the works council are mostly consultative and advisory.