A PPO conference devoted to labour rights in public procurement took place on June 20th.
Sylwia Szczepańska from NSZZ „Solidarność” presented the result of the „yellow cards” initiative – a joint project of the trade union, Institute for Sustainable Public Procurement and the Polish Employers’ Federation.
ISSP representative, Grzegorz Piskalski, has this report and an appeal of more ambition to PPO.
The conference focused on an impotent and controversial (from the point of public procurers) issue from the human rights point of view. Szczepańska shown how our joint campagn shaped the PPO stance as well as the Public Procurement Law in Poland which in a short period of time evolved from shedding responsibility to legal obligations regarding caring for working conditions.
PPO decided to have a system-wide control of the matter. It is worth mentioning that each of our „yellow cards” has been sent to its chair.
There is an evident need for going forword on the matter, that is being noted by experts and clercs. Social clauses need to answer social problems in Poland better. Besides promoting decent labour conditions there is a need for dialog that is not restricted to experts and involves potencial beneficiaries, such as people with disabilities or the social economy sector.
The issue was raised by us in our opinion regarding the PPO Working Plan for the 2017-2020 period. We also noticed the need for co-operation with other public institutions, such as the Office of the Commisioner for Human Rights. We our happy that such connections are already being made.
The PPO should also focus on bringing the voices of institutions interested in public authorities promoting social clauses to the debating table so that they can inspire the tenders. It is important for them to answer concrete, local problems and ie. not focus on fighting umepmployment in areas where it is low and other social problems are more important.
More Time for Discussion, Please!
It is worth pointing out that the PPO tried to show with its conference that public procurers can remember about things such as Fair Trade Coffee or choosing a conference room that is accessible for people with disabilities. In my opinion it can do more, thinking about the ecological footprint of their gadgets or using social economy catering services, which we do at the events of our Institute.
The conference was not withou controvercies though. The only person that had the opportunity to answer the issues put forward by the panelists was Mrs. Magdalena Olejarz from the EU and International Co-operation in the PPO that was moderating all of the panel discussions.
Such an opportunity was not granted for other panelists and participants. There was only half an hour for discussion at the end of the conference when some of its participants already had to leave the meeting. Even though the audience was not huge it had many precise questions – some of them were left unanswered.
Shifting the Conversation
What is still missing in the public procurers’ attitude is more thorough thiniking about what are social clauses and caring for issues such as guaranteeing decent labour conditions for. At times we can see more caring for issues such as defending competition than human rights.
We still can see that some of them are not happy with the obligation of controlling working conditions. Institutions that buckle this trend and promoting good practices of their own, such as the road and transportation authority in Tarnów need to be showcased more.
In the opinion of ISSP and NSZZ „Solidarność” it seems strange that representatives of public authorities (including PPO) took almost no notice of the very important report from the Supreme Audit Office (NIK), which shown the scale of problems with using social clauses in public procurement.
We would expect a more candid conversation about the obvious and well known problem – that low standards in public tenders led to serious negative tendencies that hit workers hard, especially in the cleaning and security sectors. Public authorities should act in such a way that makes such problems obsolete.
To put things in perspective – on a similar conference, that took place in June in Nottingham and which I attendes the discussion of experts ended in a conclusion that controlling supply chains is starting to be the most important matter in the debate around human rights in public procurement. The difference in perceptions of the problem are really stark.
The ethical requirements towards public procurers are growing. It can be seen clearly in reports of institutions such as the UN, OECD or the European Commission. It is important for PPO to also see these trends.
We are awaiting further conferences related to the subject of social economy – a tender for oranising one such event has recently been set by PPO. We hope that with each such event the awareness of the need for more active promotion of socially responsible public procurement will grow.