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Ukrainian workers with support of OPZZ created their own trade union in Poland

On the 20th of May 2016 in Katowice, Poland, Ukrainians workers with support of Polish confederation of trade unions OPZZ created their own trade union. This is the first trade union of migrant workers in Poland and its main aim is to organise and support Ukrainians workers in their integration within Polish trade unions, labour market and the whole society. 
Ukrainians workers constitute the biggest migrants group in Poland, which is estimated at 900 000 workers and is continuously growing. They are coming to Poland to fill in the gaps in the labour market left by Polish citizens who moved to Western European countries after Poland accession to the EU in 2004.
Launch of the trade union responded to a growing need to support workers who are facing exploitation in the Polish labour market by, among other, being victims of social dumping.
Its creation followed previous bilateral contacts between Ukrainian trade unions and OPZZ as well as direct contacts between OPZZ and Ukrainian migrants represented in a Polish based NGO Poland – Ukraine. President of this organisation was one of the initiators of the union.
Jan Guz, the OPZZ President said: We supported Ukrainians colleagues to create their own trade union, which is affiliated to OPZZ, because we noticed that Poland is not anymore only a country of emigration. We observed that in some precarious workplaces the half of the workers were from Ukraine.  By supporting this initiative, we are doing the same what our colleagues from Western European trade unions done for Polish workers. We encourage Ukrainians workers to join trade unions and OPZZ will support them in advancing their rights.
Ukrainians citizens in Poland are not only precarious workers but predominantly work in workplaces without or with very limited trade union presence, such as construction, agriculture and home care.
By setting up a designated trade union for Ukrainians employees we do not intend to be separatists - said Yuri Karyagin, ad interim President of the union. On the contrary, by having our own self-organised group in a form of trade union within the OPZZ's structures we could more easily approach our colleagues who are in the workplaces without trade union presence or recognition. Moreover, Ukrainians  work under various types of atypical contracts, usually in grey economy, which limit their access to  trade unions. There was a need to set up our trade union because in many workplaces they were no trade unions we could join to.
By creating a trade union for Ukrainians workers, OPZZ implemented a community based organising approach. Adam Rogalewski, OPZZ International Officer, responsible for migrant workers said: We decided to implement organising methods by enabling Ukrainian workers to create  their own group within OPZZ structures. This self-organised group took a form of a registered trade union as this was the only legal way in which migrant communities in Polish trade unions could keep their independence and yet being formally embedded in the OPZZ's structures. We hope that other migrant communities learning from the Ukrainian experience will follow suit and become active in representing migrant workers' interests in the Polish labour movement.
For further information please contact: Piotr Ostrowski (ostrowski@opzz.org.pl), Head of  the OPZZ International Department and Yuriy Karyagin (yuriy.karyagin@gmail.com), ad interim President of Ukrainian workers' trade union in Poland.
More information in Polish on OPZZ website: http://goo.gl/VwmYgw