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Changing workplace relations in foreign investment firms in Poland

Jane Hardy (University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK)
Wleslawa Kozek (Warsaw University, Warsaw, Poland)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 28 June 2011




The article aims to consider the relationship between foreign investors and trade unions in forging new labour relations and workplace institutions in Polish firms. The research focuses on the role of foreign investment and the agency of workers' organisations in the transformation of workplace relations


An institutionalist approach is adopted which focuses on structural, institutional and political influences on workplace relations. The research is based on interviews with senior managers and trade unions in 15 foreign investment firms in Poland.


There is a continued presence of trade unions in brownfield foreign investments and the establishment of new trade union branches in greenfield foreign investments. Labour relations in the majority of the case study companies were characterised by managers and workers as conflictual. Efforts by foreign investors to introduce their home or global practices were contested by trade unions. A continuation of previous legacies was evident in the importance placed by trade unions on communication, negotiation and establishing agreements with management.

Research limitations/implications

The sample was comprised of transnational manufacturing companies and the conclusion cannot automatically be applied to other sectors where foreign investors have a strong presence.

Practical implications

Insights into workplace relations in Poland are provided which will be of interest to foreign investors and European trade unions.


Trade unions have been neglected in analysing new corporate structures in Poland and this article addresses their role in the workplace and their interrelationship with foreign investors.



Hardy, J. and Kozek, W. (2011), "Changing workplace relations in foreign investment firms in Poland", Employee Relations, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 375-394.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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