Waste services remunicipalisation in Jaworzno, Poland
“Putting municipal services on the market for competitive tendering has many disadvantages,” says Andrzej Dudzik. He is the main shop steward of the public sector secretariat of the Polish trade union in the municipality of Jaworzno. Dudzik has worked in the municipality’s section for waste disposal services, water and sewage for almost 30 years. Twenty years ago, the municipality decided to outsource its waste services. According to Dudzik, it were the employees who paid the highest price for that decision.
The private companies that took over the waste management broke health and safety rules, did not follow other working life standards and often paid the bare minimum wage.
“The private companies that took over the waste management broke health and safety rules, did not follow other working life standards and often paid the bare minimum wage”, Dudzik explains. Besides, work equipment and vehicles were in poor condition, according to the union representative. For the past ten years, Dudzik has been a full time shop steward. His responsibility lies first and foremost with the 210 members in the water and sewerage local union section. However, Dudzik also has other responsibilities at the regional Solidarność branch.
In February 2021, he participated in a seminar as part of the European Economic Area (EEA) Norway Grants Programme on social dialogue and decent work, of which Solidarność and the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet) are part. During the seminar Dudzik shared his experience of public services remunicipalisation with other Polish and Norwegian union colleagues, as well as social partner representatives, such as the employer associations Association of Polish Cities and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS).
The city of Jaworzno re-municipalised its waste management in October 2020, after 20 years of mobilization by trade unions against the harsh competition triggered by private waste management companies. The “competitive” part of the tendering is misleading, according to Dudzik: “instead of real competition market, monopolies emerged that drove service costs higher”. Market power concentration lead to inflated service prices, lower service quality, and poor working conditions for employees, Dudzik explained.
Following the decision to de-privatize, the city entrusted the in-sourced waste management services to the municipal water company Wodociągi Jaworzno. When the municipality brought back the municipal waste services in-house, around 80 workers - previously employed under the private providers - became public servants. With that change came collective agreement coverage, a permanent job and good employment conditions. In addition, Jaworzno waste workers now have access to modern equipment, especially designed to collect different types of waste across the city. “About half of the 80 workers have so far chosen to become members of the union,” says Dudzik.
Similar experiences in Oslo and 120+ municipalities in Norway
Safer conditions for the workers and better quality services are now reported in the municipalities that insourced the service.
Anders Kollmar-Dæhlin, Head of Fagforbundet’s county divison of Transport and Technical services in Norway nods in agreement while listenining to Dudzik’s experience. Kollmar-Dæhlin was leading the work when more than 120 municipalities took back waste collection into public hands when the private company in charge at the time, RenoNorden, went bankrupt in 2017.
According to Kollmar-Dæhlin, private waste company workers have poorer working conditions than most workers. “Several RenoNorden employees had to work up to 90 hours a week”, he says. Safer conditions for the workers and better quality services are now reported in the municipalities that insourced the service. The same applies to Jaworzno. There, inhabitants have reported that the quality of the services has improved without an increase in waste collection fees. The city counts around 87,000 inhabitants.
Six months before the RenoNorden bankruptcy, Oslo went through a winter of chaos with its municipal waste services. Oslo remunicipalised its waste services taking them back from private company, Veireno. Here, too, de-privatisation not only meant decent pay and retirement schemes for the employees who became public servants, but also access to vital personal protective equipment such as gloves and shoes to do the job properly and safely.
A more environmentally friendly service
Another major advantage of waste collection remunicipalisation in Jaworzno is that all vehicles owned by the municipality run on natural gas. “This reduces emissions and improves the air quality for the inhabitants”, says Dudzik. In Norway, too, environment considerations are a significant argument for Kollmar-Dæhlin in his next endavour: de-privatise regional bus transport services and bring them back under public control.
“Local public transport oursourcing is a poor use of resource. After a normal tender period, buses are scrapped even though they have only been used for two-thirds of their lifespan. When in control of the public transport services, instead, the county will own the buses and plan long-term with a gradual renewal of its bus fleet, along with technological development. It is better for the economy and the environment”, says Kollmar-Dæhlin.
Dialogue and cooperation pay off
Social dialogue with the local administrations and cooperation with local politicians is key to getting privatised services back into public hands.
Both Kollmar-Dæhlin and Dudzik emphasize that social dialogue with the local administrations (municipality and county) and cooperation with local politicians is key to getting privatised services back into public hands. “The politicians in Jaworzno got the idea to take back the services from discussions with the union. We went through the advantages and disadvantages of a remunicipalisation together with them”, says Dudzik.
Social dialogue and cooperation are an essential part of the work methodology of Norwegian unions as well, according to Kollmar-Dæhlin. “It is our job to convince politicians and administrators that public services are best run when they are controlled by the public”, he concludes.
Norway Grants Social Dialogue and Decent Work Programme
Solidarność and Fagforbundet are both part of the Norway Grants program for social dialogue and decent work, which is based on the exchange of experience and cooperation among social partners in participating countries. The objective of the Programme is strengthened tripartite cooperation between employer organisations, trade unions and public authorities and the promotion of decent work, in close cooperation with Norwegian partners. The Programme supports social dialogue and contributes to improving decent work practices. The program is administered by Innovation Norway. The EEA and Norway Grants are funded jointly by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Fagforbundet is the main Norwegian partner in five projects in the EEA Norway Grants program. In addition to the collaboration with Solidarność, Fagforbundet is partner to another Polish union, FZZPOZIPS, as well as Tufemi in Bulgaria, Rotal in Estonia and NPPSS in Lithuania. In Norway, KS is Fagforbundet’s social partner on the employer side in all the projects.
Originally published on 30 June 2021 by Fagforbundet: Norske og polske tillitsvalgte: felles erfaringer med å ta tjenester tilbake (fagforbundet.no)