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The Warsaw Voice » Law » July 2, 2010
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Law in brief
July 2, 2010   
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Legal Information Helpline
The government has adopted guidelines for a draft law to set up a system for providing legal information to citizens. Under the guidelines, proposed by the justice minister, a free helpline service would be launched to provide information to callers about regulations in force, citizens’ rights and obligations, and institutions competent to deal with individual issues.

In a related project, the justice ministry is expected to launch a system of free legal assistance available on an out-of-court basis.

EU Environmental Network Comes to Poland
The European Network of Environmental Authorities (ENEA) has expanded to Poland to share experience on environmental issues and promote best practices in areas such as environmental management and environmental dispute resolution.

ENEA is part of the European Union’s cohesion policy agenda and is expected to help standardize environmental practices across the bloc.

Deputies Stand up for Soldiers
A group of deputies have submitted a bill to parliament to appoint a special official to deal with soldiers’ rights. The official would be responsible for protecting the rights of both soldiers in active service and retirees. According to the deputies, a commissioner for soldiers’ rights is needed because soldiers’ rights are not sufficiently protected by the commissioner for civil rights protection, or ombudsman.

The new commissioner for soldiers’ rights would work along the same lines as similar officials responsible for the protection of the insured, children’s rights and consumers’ rights, the deputies said. They added that soldiers’ rights are protected by such an official in countries such as Canada, the United States, Germany, Britain and Sweden.

Poland Faces Legal Action Over Discrimination
The European Commission May 5 brought legal action against Poland— before the European Court of Justice—for failing to adapt its law to the requirements of a directive of June 2000 that prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination. Poland had until May 1, 2004—when it joined the European Union—to implement the directive.

The European Commission argues that Polish law does not contain detailed provisions prohibiting racial and ethnic discrimination with respect to issues such as social benefits, labor union membership, and access to goods and services, including accommodation.

More Foreigners Working Illegally
Labor inspectors uncovered almost 700 cases of foreigners working illegally in Poland last year—twice as many as in 2008, according to the State Labor Inspectorate (PIP). Most of the illegal workers were Ukrainians and nationals of Far Eastern countries. Most of them were employed in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

“We launched special regional teams responsible for illegal employment, and we also began to work more closely with border guards last year,” said Tadeusz Zaj±c, head of the State Labor Inspectorate.

According to Prof. Grażyna Firlit-Fesnak of the University of Warsaw’s Social Policy Institute, Poland should toughen its policy on illegal employment while using the experience of other European Union countries. In Germany, for example, an extensive labor inspection system is in place, Firlit-Fesnak says, and a fine imposed on a company for employing illegal workers may reach 500,000 euros. In Britain, employers are required to check whether a prospective employee is in the country legally and has the right to work. In France, an employer hiring illegal workers may lose the right to seek public contracts.

Work Permits for Foreigners Rise
A total of 29,340 work permits were issued to foreigners last year, up from 18,022 in 2008, according to Labor Ministry data.

The largest number of permits were issued to Ukrainians (9,504), Chinese nationals (4,536), Vietnamese (2,577), Belarusians (1,669), Turks (1,422), and India nationals (1,164).

The number of foreign workers increased the fastest in the wholesale and retail sector, with 6,921 permits issued; manufacturing, with 5,088; financial and real estate services, with 4,131; construction, with 3,065; and the hotel and restaurant industry, with 2,803.

Skilled manual workers, at 9,143, were the largest group of foreigners seeking work permits in Poland. They were followed by managerial staff and professionals (5,700), and unskilled workers, including home help and caregivers (4,829). Work permits were also issued to 377 artists, 365 IT specialists, 322 teachers, and 177 medical specialists, including around 30 physicians.

New Anti-Drug Measures
The Ministry of Health says it is working on a set of new regulations to counteract drug addiction. The legislation would enable the health minister to suspend the sales of new psychoactive substances for 18 months to make sure they are not harmful to users.

If tests show that the substance is harmful, it will be withdrawn from the market permanently and banned, officials say.

Ombudsman Stands up for Students
Deputy civil rights ombudsman Marek Zubik has complained to the science and higher education minister against four medical universities—in the cities of Cracow, Poznań, Lublin and Warsaw—for barring Polish students from taking part in courses taught in foreign languages.

According to Zubik, by admitting only foreign students to take part in such courses, the universities discriminate against Polish students on the grounds of nationality.

Under the constitution, public authorities are obligated to ensure universal and equal access to education for all citizens. This means not only equal treatment for all Polish citizens but also equal access to education on a par with that offered to foreign students at Polish universities, Zubik said.

Discrimination on the grounds of nationality is also banned under article 14 of the European convention on human rights, Zubik added.

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