Mykola Volkivskyi, Political Expert,
President of The First International Ukrainian Foundation of Development.
Artem Oliinyk, Political Scientist,
Assistant Researcher of the Academy of Political Sciences of Ukraine.
From the beginning of June this year, the information space was flooded with news about the unclear course of the tender among companies that planned to provide mediation services between those wishing to travel to the Republic of Poland to earn money on the one hand, and government-guarantee agencies that must issue work visas on the other. The number of vacancies in Poland at the end of June 2021 reached 143 thousand, which is 75 percent more than in the same period last year. In the second quarter of 2021, the number of new jobs reached 35,000, which is 78 percent higher than the year before. At the same time, the situation in the world is similar: at least half of private companies in the world have faced the problem of filling vacancies due to labour shortages caused by restrictions on the pandemic and labour movement.
Ukrainians make up a significant part of the national wealth of neighbouring Poland due to their labour contribution to this country. Every year, the number of seasonal and other types of migrants increased (before the pandemic), averaging 1,500,000 people, who also contributed an average of $ 25,000 per capital to Poland’s GDP. Together this is about 5% of Poland’s GDP, and in fact, a very noticeable piece. For the past 10 years, VFS Global has been an intermediary to assist with visas (one of the largest specialized firms, it has regularly won tenders). At the end of last year, a tender was also announced, but the winner was another company – the Polish Personnel Service. The latter belongs to Tomasz M., a businessman with personal connections in the Polish government (I know from my sources that he is a good friend of the Prime Minister of Poland and a billionaire). There were also accusations against the manager that he had ties with Russia, and whose company did not meet the requirements of the tender due to the inability to quickly organize the work to the required extent.
Mr. M. is the owner of Work Service, which recently had a Russian subsidiary; the latter has worked with thousands of stores owned by Friedman, one of Russia’s largest mafia-linked oligarchs. Supervision of the group is still carried out by the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) of the Russian Federation (they supervise all activities, including abroad). The same Mr. M is connected with the high-ranking guardian of the money of Putin from the Kremlin. 3 out of 5 companies appealed to the National Appeals Chamber of Poland, and on 19.08.2021 a new decision was to return to the Hellas consortium tender and a new recalculation of points. Then the bidders can sue again, so the legal case has not yet been resolved.
The company’s partner in Ukraine, Viza Staff, an employment company registered in the Dnipropetrovsk region, also began to raise questions. It is worth noting that this organization is quite small and consists of only a few people. To put it mildly, their capacity is not enough to process tens of thousands of requests per month – they now process several hundred requests per month. The unpleasant fact is that the Ukrainian representative office of the company is part of the Russian division of the holding. Teleperformance Ukraine is a union of 3 countries headquartered in Moscow; TLScontact was mentioned in an unconfirmed scandal involving attempts to use Russian intelligence. Although this information is not central to the topic, it is important given the interest of the Russian side here as well. Probably, the close friendship and alliance between Ukraine and Poland, which was restored with renewed vigour after the election victory of Zelensky and the end of the “war of historical memory”, which almost froze our relations a few years ago, is very detrimental to Russia’s policy.
Our topic has become popular since August, especially with the disruption of the protest action on the eve of the Independence Day of Ukraine and the arrival of President Duda in the capital. Several NGOs held rallies under Polish consulates and the EU Delegation; MPs made inquiries to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today, the situation remains unclear: lawsuits are delaying the start of work; Polish firm has neither its own representative offices nor partners in Ukraine who could satisfy requests in the usual way; The connection of companies with business and military structures in the Russian Federation creates fair reasons for inspections by the Ukrainian special services, which can suspend the activities of the mediator. We are convinced that the main danger lies in obtaining up-to-date information about Ukrainian citizens in Poland by Russian intelligence services; the danger of recruiting our compatriots abroad under the guise of EU or US agents; deduction of other important data in Ukraine related to classified information about military and civilian objects; demobilized and drafted servicemen, etc. The danger of constant updating of information and its unimpeded transfer to the Russians poses a threat to national security.
At the same time, Ukrainians themselves should not panic, and they always have alternative ways out of the crisis. First, they can start applying for the desired visas today or during the winter, when the processing of documents will not have such a stir. Secondly, despite the proximity to Poland, other countries need Ukrainian labour. According to my information, the Foreign Ministry is already negotiating with several European countries to increase quotas and expand cooperation in this area. Third, the national economy is also increasing, so with the implementation of government programs, there are many vacancies. And in case of any tension with the impossibility of our citizens to enter the usual jobs in Poland, the foreign entrepreneurs themselves will put pressure on the Government to solve the problem as soon as possible. It is in Poland’s interest to take care of the formal admission of Ukrainians to themselves, as during the season it risks losing more due to lack of hands. Polish businesses will become the biggest lobbyist for Ukrainian workers in the event of a crisis.
At the same time, we can predict an increase in wages and improved working conditions. And this thesis is true for both Ukraine and Poland, albeit with a striking difference. The domestic market is growing, and this is becoming noticeable to the average citizen. A decent standard of living is possible for Ukrainians without schemes and machinations, and the demand for highly paid specialists is already in large cities of our country. Such positive changes will continue due to the recovery after the pandemic, the expansion of vaccination (even compulsory for certain categories, but instead will avoid lockdowns and economic downturns), the introduction of foreign capital, and the flexibility of the domestic market. Very soon, in 3-5 years, provided that today’s trends continue, we have a real chance to reach a decent growth rate, and therefore the issue of labour migration will not be as acute as today or 5 years ago.