A Cross-Cultural and Institutional Approach
Edited by Kate Hutchings and Kavoos Mohannak
Chapter 4: Fostering Learning to Build New Competencies in Times of Deconstruction: Lessons from Polish Ex-Socialist Firms
Renata Kaminska-Labbé and Catherine Thomas INTRODUCTION The abolition of the centralised economic system in Eastern European countries was an unprecedented situation in which firms, markets, social and institutional systems had to be completely reconstructed. The specificity of Poland in comparison to its Eastern European neighbours concerning the choice of a transition programme resides in two principal elements: the influence of the Catholic Church and the role played by trade unions. Indeed, during the entire post-war period, the Roman Catholic Church constituted the only true and active opposition to the political system in place, openly manifesting its support for values such as equality and freedom. Poland was the first country of the socialist block to legalise the existence of the trade unions, which had until then operated illegally. In 1980, the first union, ‘Solidarity’, was founded leading to a wave of important social movements throughout the country. Having grown beyond proportions acceptable to the central authorities, these movements were brutally interrupted in December 1981 with the introduction of Marshal Law during which most of the union activists were imprisoned or forced to dissimulate their activity. In 1982, at the end of this politically and socially turbulent period, the government introduced a new economic reform based on three principal elements: autonomy, self-financing and self-management. At the same time, legislation was modified and trade unions were once more legalised, obtaining considerable power, particularly through their participation in the firm Workers’ Councils. After 1989, the first Polish non-communist democratically-elected 52 Learning to build new...
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