What are the ways to resolve labor disputes?
Problems arising between employees may concern any issue, starting from the amount of remuneration, the number of duties imposed, and ending with reluctance towards selected co-workers. Labor disputes may occur in relations between different persons:
- employer and employee – such situations mainly concern non-respect of mutual rights and obligations arising from the employment relationship and applicable labor law;
- individual employees – the supervisor is then not a party to the emerging conflict, but as an employer, he should strive to resolve it (especially when employees are unable to reach an agreement. Such conflicts do not have to concern employee rights and obligations, they may be associated with personal dislikes between employees people.
Labor disputes can be huge and last a long time. The problem becomes bigger if new people join the dispute and no one is able to propose a rational solution. Problems arising in the company can be solved in various ways. Unfortunately, in Poland, the judicial route is still at the forefront.
The basic method for resolving an employee conflict is to talk and try to find an agreement. For obvious reasons, this method can be difficult, especially when at least one of the parties does not want to hear about any talks. The employer can act as a mediator here, unless of course he himself is a party to the conflict. Discussions involving a third party who is not involved in the dispute are a good idea, although they undoubtedly require concessions on each side of the conflict.
A much more common way to resolve labor disputes is to take the case to court – either to an employment court or to a civil court. This right applies to both the employee and the employer. A court decision most often appears when an employee or employer violates applicable labor laws or regulations contained in the employment contract. It is worth remembering that this form of assistance is available at every stage of the dispute and does not have to be preceded by any form of settlement procedure (court or private). The parties to the employment relationship may also not prohibit each other from using the right to a court during the employment relationship and after its termination.
At the moment, we can distinguish 4 forms of amicable resolution of labor disputes, they are:
- out-of-court settlement – it is concluded without the participation of the court, it can arise at any stage of settling the case, also when it is already being examined as part of specific court proceedings. As part of the settlement, the opposing parties make concessions to the opponent and seek a mutual compromise;
- court settlement – it is concluded in the course of a given court proceeding, it may be requested by each of the parties to the proceeding, as well as by the court. This type of settlement is governed by art. 917 of the Civil Code, according to which, by settlement, the parties make mutual concessions regarding the legal relationship existing between them in order to waive uncertainty as to claims arising from this relationship or ensure their performance, or to waive an existing or potential dispute;
- mediation – this is a form of talks that take place with the participation of a third party (mediator). The aim of any mediation is to reach a compromise and reach a settlement that suits both parties to the conflict;
- proceedings before a conciliation commission – conciliation commissions may function in a given workplace on the basis of the provisions of the Labor Code, they fulfill a similar purpose to that of a mediator – their rights should lead to a resolution of the conflict.
Pursuant to Art. 243 and 244 of the Labor Code, the employee may pursue his claims under the employment relationship in court. Before referring the case to the court, he may request the initiation of conciliation proceedings before the conciliation commission. The employer and the employee should strive for an amicable settlement of the employment dispute.
Conciliation committees may be appointed to settle disputes arising from the employment relationship amicably. The conciliation commission is appointed jointly by the employer and the enterprise trade union organization, and if there is no enterprise trade union organization operating at a given employer – by the employer, after obtaining a positive opinion of the employees.
In fact, no provision imposes an obligation to try to resolve an employee conflict amicably. Therefore, the parties in dispute do not have to use such solutions and can refer the case to the competent court at the very beginning of the conflict. Such situations are not uncommon in Poland. Let us remember that the employer cannot force his employee to sign any settlement, participate in mediation or in proceedings before the company conciliation committee, if the employee does not agree to it.
From a practical point of view, however, it is worth taking care of the possibility of a settlement, even if it is certain that the case will go to court anyway. If this occurs, the party that attempted conciliation will be in a better starting position in court. The willingness to settle the conflict amicably shows good will and the possibility of cooperation, which may lead to the fact that the person wins the entire proceedings and obtains a favorable decision.
Supported by Norway through Norway Grants 2014-2021, in the frame of the Programme “Social Dialogue – Decent Work”.