How Polish Companies Entered EU Markets and Why They Were Called Mafia

Wednesday, 6 December 2023

Polish hauliers accuse Ukrainian companies of dumping and demand protection from their government. It is ironic since Polish drivers were once faced accusations of dumping immediately after their country joined the European Union.

Read more in the column by Iryna Kosse, the Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting – How EU Had Protected Itself from Cheap Labour from the East.

According to Iryna Kosse, Polish drivers were previously accused of dumping because they were willing to work for a salary that was half the EU standard rate.

"Drivers from the East were even called the 'transport mafia,'" writes the author in her column.

Due to significant wage differences, Luxembourgish, Belgian, Dutch, and French companies, created subsidiaries in Eastern Europe to hire drivers there.

"A driver will receive about 1800 euros in France, plus-minus 2200 euros in Belgium, 2700 euros in Luxembourg, and... 1300 euros in Slovenia for the same work. They get paid according to the laws of their country but work here (in France – Ed.), and that's the problem," explained Alain Durant, a representative of the Belgian trade union FGTB-UBOT, in 2012.

In February 2012, a delegation from UBOT (Belgian Transport Workers' Union) went to Bratislava, Slovakia, to check whether transport companies adhered to European rules regulating the work of hauliers and the establishment of companies in another country. "We saw the same thing as two years ago: companies with mailbox addresses that exist on paper but not physically!"

Similar accusations were made by the French in 2013 regarding Hungarian and Romanian hauliers, especially when considering the issue of permits for cabotage transport.

But companies from Eastern Europe engaged in transportation were also implicated. When Poland joined the EU, and border control was lifted, as the expert notes, the largest Polish transport company, Adampol, founded in 1990, was boomimg in May 2004.

Due to these imbalances, according to Iryna Kosse, during election campaigns in EU countries, the image of the "Polish plumber" became popular, frightening voters.

This symbol of cheap labour coming from Central Europe posed a challenge to Western societies, leading to the perception of migrants as uncivilised and threatening to national lifestyles.

"However, these stereotypes were later disproven. In 2005, only 15,000 Poles were registered as foreign workers in France, compared to 14,000 in 2007," the author writes.

According to her, during that time, Poles had to reassure the British and the French: "Don't worry, it's just temporary. If Poland as a country grows, it will be beneficial to the UK. We will be a good market for British products."

The research fellow at the Institute of Economic Research and Political Consultations mentions that Poland itself experienced a severe labour shortage, from workers to teachers and doctors. The city of Wroclaw launched a campaign in Polish clubs and pubs in London, urging people to return.

"However, in 2008, there was a turning point. Wages in the UK decreased due to the recession, and during this time, Poland became wealthier.

Time has set everything in its place and fears have dissipated. It turned out that the accession of Central and Eastern European countries brought increased prosperity to the entire EU," concludes the expert.

Similar concerns are echoed by the Poles themselves. And one can respond to them in the same way the Poles did: "Don't worry, it's just temporary. If Ukraine as a country grows, it will be beneficial for Poland, too."

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