The Problems of the Polish Tech Industry
You might think that its easy for a foreign tech specialist or an incoming tech company to find their way around the Polish Tech Industry. There might even be the chance that the individual or company will successfully navigate all the pitfalls and challenges. Whatever the case, 2022 showed that there are problems in the Polish Tech Industry. Problems that many incumbents might not be aware of.
Last year Rekruter released a story about the Unicorns that were entering the Krakow and Poland market. The story was supported by the teams at MOTIFE and ASPIRE who created the “2022 Krakow IT Market Report”.
The Problems that are BlockFi and BitPanda in Poland
Things have changed dramatically for at least two of the Unicorns who called Poland home and were listed in the report. BlockFi, with offices in Warsaw and Krakow, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey in November last year. Interestingly, there are still large amounts of employees registered as still working at BlockFi in Poland according to LinkedIn. How safe their jobs are remains unclear though.
Another firm from the list of Unicorns is Bitpanda
In a somewhat disturbing story, the news of layoffs within Bitpanda hit some employees by surprise. On Friday the 24th of June Sifted posted a story about Bitpanda cutting a third of its workforce. The problem was that allegedly many of these employees heard about it first… from Sifted. And not from their line managers or HR department at BitPanda. Not an ideal situation for any employer.
Two steps back for the vibrant tech ecosystem that is maturing in Poland today. Was there a step forward though?
The Problem with Running an IT Outsourcing Business in Poland
The stories of BitPanda and BlockFi have been received with mixed responses in Poland. And the usual offer of help in the form of job offers amongst the competition was noticeable. Bearing in mind the uncertainty that started to creep into the Polish market at the time. What happened just a few days later in November caused further shockwaves across the tech market.
One commentator on the infamous Facebook group called “Problemy Polskiej Branzy IT” declared “Do you Sii now, how big problemz we have in Polska Branza IT?” Normally they just write about selling Opels in the group. In November things got serious. Opels took a backstage.
What is Sii?
Created in 1979 with offices across Europe. Sii is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange as Société pour l’Informatique Industrielle. The company lists numerous large companies in Poland amongst its clients. And the firm also employs thousands of developers across Poland, and opened its first office in Warsaw in 2006.
With the scale that Sii has achieved in Poland. It was only a matter of time before the employees and B2B contractors would consider creating a trade union. And a story about just that hit the news on the 25th of November last year.
Trade Unions, the biggest problem that the CEO of Sii Poland is facing today
Gregoire Nitot, CEO of Sii Poland has been involved with the company since it first opened its doors in Warsaw in 2006. On his LinkedIn profile Gregoire states that Sii has a community of 8000 employees and freelancers across Poland.
But, when one particular employee called Krystian Kosowski reached out to Gregoire, the response was not what one would have expected. Importantly. All Krystian tried to do is highlight the need for a trade union to represent the interests of the workers at Sii. A trade union that was successfully established on the 18th of November according to Krystian.
In his response, which was shared with members of the “Problemy Polskiej Branzy IT” group on Facebook, Gregoire stated the following:
“Sii does not need trade union, as we carefully listen to all our workers critics & change propositions everyday & provide improvements for our workers since I founded the company in 2006.”
The initial part of his email to Krystian may seem relatively constructive. However, the rest of the message had a different tone:
“Sii does not want to be like selfish miners trade unions who put pressure on Polish government to pay billions of PLN for their egoistic benefits (instead of investing in schools or healthcare system or energy).
“Such behavior does not encourage companies like Sii or entrepreneurs to invest in Poland. To create jobs & recruit people in Lodz (it makes me really sad & upset). We have unfortunately disgusting behaviors sometimes in Sii ☹).
“It is better to invest in more liberal & open-minded countries where we can easily dismiss bad performers & trouble makers who kill their employers & the entire company.
“For example I quitted France for that reasons: too many trade unions. Too many strikes. Too many complaints. Too high work protection. Too much bureaucracy. Too high taxes (ZUS, PIT, PFRON…). Too complex employment system.”
How the Problems of the Polish IT industry made the news
The letter from Gregoire is much longer than the above quotes alone, and goes into much more detail. So far 368 comments have been made by the members of the Facebook group below the post. Some of the almost 63,000 members were in disbelief. Others couldn’t believe that a responsible business leader could write such a thing to his employee.
A response from Zwiazek Zawodowy Zwiazkowa Alternatywa (The Alternative Trade Union) was forthcoming by the 27th of November. In the response, Piotr Szumlewicz criticized the behaviour of the CEO of Sii. Suggesting that he had fired Krystian Kosowski from the company because he had raised the topic of creating a trade union. Something that Piotr wrote was an act in breach of the Constitution and Laws of Poland. On the 28th the wider media in Poland and abroad started to circulate the story.
By the 30th of November an official response was made by Gregoire Nitot. In the note, he stated that Sii had terminated the contract of Krystian Kosowski. Gregoire elaborated in his note. According to Krystian the termination of his contract took place on the 25th of November though, meaning Gregoire’s note was really just an afterthought, probably looking to appease the media backlash. The note is available to view in the “Problemy Polskiej Branzy IT” group on Facebook:
“On Friday, we made the final decision to terminate Krystian’s contract, not because he had formed a union, but because he was acting against Sii.”
A few weeks ago the matter was referred to the Public Prosecutor in Poland. Krystian has shared with Rekruter’s editorial team how the notification raised to the Public Prosecutor included evidence of further incidents that occurred post his termination. And as for the Facebook group, the CEO of Sii has received several accolades. None of them particularly flattering. Many of them mentioning Opel cars.
How the Polish IT industry became so “hot”
It’s easy to gloss over the significance of the story of Sii. As a foreigner in Poland the CEO has every right to his opinion about Polish workers and trade unions. There may even be some developers at Sii who are not interested in the creation of a trade union. Developers who are on the side of the CEO. However, the wider developer community will long remember the story. A story that is clearly going to create reputational damage for Sii in Poland in the short-term.
Most importantly. It would appear then that one of the prerequisites of joining the Polish tech industry is that you have a sense of humour.
#Hrejterzy is another household name amongst programmers in Poland. One with a large dose of humor in its messages. The movement, supported by the company CodeTwo, was one of the first to highlight the lighter side of being a programmer in Poland. With catchy video content as well as a good billboard campaign across the country, #HRejterzy have been an ever present for anyone interested in IT.
Addressing The Problems of the Polish Tech Industry needs a Sense of Humour
How did the leading IT outsourcing company in Poland lose its sense of humor and become embroiled in controversy?
There are probably lots of answers to those questions. However, the one that sticks out is how a French company, used to striking workers and trade unions back in France, came to Poland to avoid these employee-related problems. Hoping that it would be easier then back home.
What the story highlights as well, is that Poland is not a country to come to if you want to easily fire people. Polish tech workers are not cannon fodder for big Western corporations. The thriving Polish tech community needs to be empowered. They are the future of one of the youngest democracies in the world. And they should be treated as the talented individuals that they are. Something that Sii would do well to consider the next time they face an insurrection from within their ranks. Even if they really are trouble makers.
Author: Andy Samu
Andy Samu is the Editor of #DisruptionBanking based in London.
DisruptionBanking was listed as one of the Top 15 Fintech Magazines & Publications to Follow in 2022 globally.
Magazyn Rekruter does not take any responsibility for any of the content in this story. The content is the opinion of the writer. All the facts presented in the story are widely available on the internet. And there has been no persons or companies that this story was intended to harm or cause damage to.