Tuesday, February 28, 2017
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Work Ethics in Poland: Salaries, Working Hours, and Vacation

The salaries depended on the function of the person in a company. There was not really any motivation-related part in the salary that would rely on how good the work was done. Even if there was a flexible part of the salary, it rarely depended on the value of work more on the ideological attitude. The salaries were usually disclosed for the average workers so that everybody could easily find out how much his co-workers earn. But, we never knew how much our political dignitaries or the company executives earned. If somebody was a devoted member of "a party" he/she could achieve a high position being quite mediocre and without any special education or talents.

Some professions and some regions were more indoctrinated than the others, for instance miners in Silesia or steelworkers. Teachers in elementary and high schools were obliged to be members of one of three official parties. Majority of them did not want to belong to the main communistic party (PZPR) so they were choosing Democratic Union (Polish: Stronnictwo Demokratyczne). Thus a Democratic Union was also called a Deserters' Union. This was also a party for people who have small businesses. The only way for them to keep businesses was to become a party member. In order to avoid the communistic PZPR many preferred to join a "Party (Union) of Deserters".

During communistic times intelligentsia in general and teachers had usually lower salaries than the blue-collars workers, especially these who worked in heavy industry as we explained inthe article: Coal Mining in Upper Silesia & Heavy Industry in Poland during the Communism . In spite of that the education system in Poland was not bad. Many people who were not able to afford any education before the WW II could send their children to the universities during communistic times.

How many hours did people work?

People usually worked eight hours without a break for lunch. In the plants or companies with the work divided by shifts - people work 6 am-2 pm, 2pm- 10 pm, 10 pm-6 am. In the regular offices and other places working hours are usually 7-8 up to 4 pm. So the rush hour traffic is earlier than in the USA both in the mornings and in the afternoons especially in the industrial quarters of the town. People sometimes ate lunch at work and this was usually done during working hours. So people spend usually eight hours at work independently - whether they ate or they did not eat lunch at work.

Free Saturdays were introduced gradually in 70-es and 80-es starting with one free Saturday a month. Before people were working usually 46 hours (6 hours on Saturday). Of course these working hours were not everywhere very strict. The strictest discipline was in the industrial companies where the workers had to punch their punch cards denoting their time of arrival and leave.
Vacation is longer in Poland than in the USA. Vacation time in European countries are often guaranteed by constitution. A new employee in Poland is allowed to take 21 days of vacations first, then the vacaton time is increasing gradually to 28 days. Often vacation times from different reasons (like working in unhealthy conditions) is even longer.

Since people do not usually eat lunch at work (sometimes it is just more like second breakfast) lunch hours are sometimes extended until 4-5 pm after people are already home from work. Actually in Poland the biggest meal is just lunch (more like dinner). In the evening we eat supper.

Recommended reading(s):

I highly recommend book written by Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Prize winner, entitled: The Captive Mind.
"The best known prose work by the winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature examines the moral and intellectual conflicts faced by men and women living under totalitarianism of the left or right."

I also recommend book by Tina Rosenberg: The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism

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