Polish farmers push to keep Ukrainians in agriculture after border closure

A sudden lack of Ukrainian employees may threaten the security and maintenance the food supply chain. [Shutterstock/B. Godart]

After Poland closed its borders to slow down coronavirus spread, agriculture unionists are demanding that the government allow Ukrainians to remain in the country and help to keep agri-food production going. EURACTIV Poland reports.

The Agricultural Organisation (OPZZ Rolników i Organizacji Rolniczych) appealed to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to enable employees from Ukraine in Poland to stay, in order to avoid the paralysis of agri-food production.

In recent years, Poland has managed to maintain its leading position in the food industry mainly thanks to employees from Ukraine.

A sudden lack of Ukrainian employees may threaten the security and maintenance of the food supply chain.

Until now, citizens of Ukraine were able to work based on visa-free travel (maximum 90 days) or work visas (from 6-12 months). After this period, they were obliged to return to Ukraine.

“Employees from Ukraine permit Poland to maintain the same level of production in the food industry. Thanks to them, economic growth has been preserved in recent years. Many of them also work in the industry,” OPZZ said.

In an extraordinary decree on 14 March, Poland closed its borders, banned public gatherings of over 50 people and closed shopping malls.

While the government banned for 14 days all passenger flights starting from Sunday (15 March), it also closed the border for the same amount of days and Polish citizens entering the country from abroad will be quarantined for 14 days.

Double loss

In an interview with EURACTIV Poland, Arkadiusz Pączka, director of the Legislation Monitoring Center of The Confederation of Polish Employers (Pracodawcy RP), said the government should intervene to avoid “double loss”.

“Often, employers have invested in their development, in training, in acquiring specialised knowledge. It would be a double loss if they must leave our country. That is why agricultural organisations are asking the government to intervene,” he said.

“I am convinced that the prime minister will allow employees with expiring right of residence to stay in Poland. These changes are to be found in the ‘anti crisis’ economic law. We participate in the creation of this law,” he concluded.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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