In the Autumn of 2015, parliamentary elections took place in Poland and the political balance of power underwent a major change. The newly elected parliamentary majority decided to introduce some significant changes to the law and to do so quickly – very quickly.
Polish parliamentary sessions take place on a more or less daily basis but after long hours of discussion and political battles (quarrels and off microphones), many of the votes have historically been held in the late evening hours or even at night. Even when there were breaks in the proceedings, they were resumed during the late evening hours because the parliamentary majority at the time did not want to lose momentum or the initiative by postponing voting for another day.
In Poland the working time of parliamentarians is not regulated and they are not covered by the Polish Labour Code; however, it is not only parliamentarians who spend their nights at the Sejm parliament building. During each session about 300 other people, including administration/security/catering staff, employees of the research and legislation bureaux, etc., have to be present to support the work of Parliament. These employees are obliged to stay at work for the full duration of those political manoeuverings and late-night votes, even though that is well outside their normal working hours.
The Opposition has tried to slow down this unusual legislative process in different ways but it has not yet achieved this. The Budget Act for 2017 was still being discussed at and fought over at 2am. Maybe this is not a good time to note the impact of fatigue on the speed and precision of one’s decision-making abilities…
It was suggested that the parliamentary majority should implement its plan of “quickly changing,” ignoring those employees’ rights in all this. After all, while the rules governing working time, rest periods, overtime, and work at night do not apply for parliamentarians they do for the other employees of the Polish Parliament. The Labour Inspection Office received an anonymous motion to check what was going on at the Sejm (I can’t imagine where that came from) and as of the beginning of March (and no doubt to the enormous angst and embarrassment of assorted senior politicians) the Inspectors are verifying whether the rights of the employees employed at the Polish Parliament are being violated.
Paradoxically, it would appear that the place where laws are created may now be violating the basic legal rights of its employees. The expression that “the darkest place is underneath the candlestick” seems to be particularly suitable in this case. Allegedly, obviously.