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The Ukrainians are storming the Polish labor market and … saving the bees

About the temporary job market, employing foreigners in Polish companies and business during the COVID-19 pandemic - interview with Andrzej Żylak, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Rybnik Industrial District
Andrzej Żylak

How hard has the COVID-19 pandemic hit the companies associated in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Rybnik Industrial District?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on everyone to some extent. All industries related to the maintenance of production and service companies, e.g., catering, still struggle with problems related to, for example, orders, receiving and delivering products. These enterprises had to resign from some contracts, while refusing to purchase, for example, in others. This is a common problem in the market. It is difficult to say unequivocally how the companies most affected by the pandemic operate today. None of these businesses really want to say how they are doing in the crisis. This fact is due to a prosaic reason. Hardly anyone wants to disclose their reserves, which they had or still have. We hear about periodic stagnation in investments. On the other hand, development companies, for example, still have their own market. Housing continues to thrive and accommodation prices continue to rise. There is a need for this type of investment. However, in the time of the crisis we are currently struggling with, a deeper problem lies within the recruitment itself.

Is there a shortage of skilled workers and qualified specialists today? Currently, foreigners find work with us more and more often.

It is not about the lack of jobs anymore, because there are jobs. First of all: some things change over time. Companies do not want to employ, for example, pensioners. Today, companies focus on employing younger workers, but with experience, appropriate qualifications, including technical ones, in broadly understood fields, e.g., robotics or automation. They are citizens of countries where education is at a high level and generates many specialists. Several years have passed and the labor market has really changed. The European Union has prepared regulations enabling the employment of workers from outside the EU, including from Nepal or India. We observe more and more that employees from the East support Polish workplaces very much. Today, the citizens of Ukraine or Belarus feed the temporary job market in Poland and are very valuable personnel. When visiting, for example, restaurants with my guests in various parts of Poland, I notice that the staff there has a distinct eastern accent. However, we must consider that sooner or later the Polish market will be even more filled with workers from beyond the eastern border. We will also see whether it will be for shorter or longer periods of employment. Everything will depend not only on the appropriate financial conditions, but also other benefits, such as social ones. Earnings are important, separation from relatives is psychologically difficult, so in our country it is worth considering the assimilation of foreigners, including by guaranteeing them additional benefits. The “Family 500 plus” program supports not only Polish families, but also, for example, children of foreigners working and living in Poland. This is a good course of action.

Will the employment of citizens from the East on temporary contracts in Poland increase in the coming years?

Poland is opening more and more to the East. We will not stop this process. We just need to consider whether we can find employees in specialized occupations among our neighbors. Highly qualified professionals are in demand. The world is moving forward at an alarming pace. If a specialist in the operation of, for example, machine tools, graduated from a vocational school or technical school 20 years ago, today he must constantly train himself. Today’s machines are different, technology is at a higher level. Devices today, and two decades ago are two different worlds. Knowledge comes at a price.

In demand are not only specialists from the East, but also, for example, production workers with experience on the production line, with less qualifications.

Enterprises, among others, associated in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Rybnik Industrial District, but also those from all over Poland, use companies such as Pajmon CPT. This shows that there is a demand for highly skilled specialists as well as production workers. It is true that sometimes doubts arise as to the qualifications of workers from the East – it is understandable. However, companies like Yours, firstly: verify their skills, and secondly: such employees can be trained for the profession, if they already have knowledge in the field. Admittedly, different technologies may be used in Ukraine, other specialized machines may be operated, maybe automation is slower, but this is not always the case. Nevertheless, our neighbors from across the eastern border still find employment in our country. However, such an employee from the East must seriously consider whether it is profitable for him to come to Poland to perform very simple jobs, or whether he wants to improve his skills. I am glad that, for example, the Rybnik Center for Vocational Education conducts training in the operation and programming of numerically controlled CNC machine tools: lathes and milling machines. The enormous increase in the use of CNC machine tools forces the need to educate qualified employees who can operate and program such specialized devices. After the preparation, the trainees receive specific training materials and appropriate certificates. I would like to mention that about two months ago I was in one of the companies in Katowice, which purchased eight robots, which on the one hand helped to relieve more than 30 employees from work, and on the other – forced the need to hire people with more knowledge and technical skills.

What motivates employees from the East to work the most? Will they be in even greater demand after the COVID-19 pandemic is over?

Employees from the East want to work a lot and earn well. It is difficult to say, however, what will be the demand for temporary workers and in which industries. It is spring, the state is gradually lifting various restrictions, and new contracts are launched. Developers are showing up more and more, and the construction industry, for example, is also taking off. How will it be in services or in gastronomy? I hope these industries will bounce back a bit and finally start making money. They have been waiting a long time for this.

Employees from Ukraine want to work a lot, but they also have great ideas. It was them who started the action #PajmondlaPlanety, in which Pajmon CPT planted flower meadows in May this year and helped bees. The #BeeChallenge has also begun, in which Pajmon CPT nominates companies – their representatives or private persons to join our campaign. The challenge is to publish a photo in the outfit inspired by bees – black and yellow or by flowers – in various colors – on your social media. It is enough to show an item of clothing in a photograph: a shirt, a scarf, a tie or a brooch in the colors of our campaign. We don’t want anyone to wear a whole costume. A goal counts, a noble one to be fair. We want to draw attention to the need to sow honey plants and save the dying bee population.

Each such event is great if it has a good cause. It is not only about material value, but about the very willingness to help. It is worth supporting such initiatives. Each such action will bring a positive response. By publicizing it in a skillful way and announcing that it is an idea of ​​the Ukrainians, we build a positive image of them in Polish society. For this reason, we feel an even greater internal, genetic bond. You need to tell others about such actions and talk about them loudly. As Rybnik Chamber, and by running an Instagram account @pastelowaelegencja ourselves, we will be happy to take part in #BeeChallenge.

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