Relations between the governments in Warsaw and Berlin are slowly getting going. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has just completed his inaugural visit to Olaf Scholz, and Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski was previously in Berlin. The first German guest to the new Polish government in January was Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) – in fact, his counterpart in Warsaw has one of the toughest jobs. Because Adam Bodnar must depoliticize the judiciary, check countless decisions for legality, and ensure the separation of powers again.
The economic relations between Poland and Germany, however, have also survived eight years of right-wing populist PiS governments. Recently there have been complaints from foreign investors that PiS has increased bureaucracy and created an opaque tax system. But Poland remains one of the most important investment locations for German companies and is Germany’s fifth most important trading partner. They were happy to be there for all the anti-German speeches that PiS politicians made, for example when Mercedes opened a new factory. Within Europe, Poland is the most popular investment location.
This makes the country a nightmare for German employee representatives. More and more companies are cutting jobs in Germany in order to create new ones in Poland. The most recent example: The household appliance manufacturer Miele, which wants to relocate 700 jobs from Gütersloh to Poland. But car manufacturers and their suppliers have also been moving more and more jobs to their neighbors for years. The reasons are the lower energy costs, wages are still lower and labor law is more employer-friendly than in Germany.
So it’s not a very simple situation in which Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) traveled to Warsaw on Wednesday. He doesn’t just have one counterpart there, but four. Habeck’s portfolios in Poland are divided into the ministries for funds and regional policy, for industry, for economic development and technology and finally for infrastructure. But first the company prepares Bosch the German minister a big reception at their location in Warsaw. Bosch has a total of five in Poland and more than 9,000 employees. Engines are manufactured in Poland, as are braking systems and household appliances. A new heat pump factory is being built near Wroclaw. Bosch is also one of the companies that are relocating more and more jobs eastwards – which is alarming works councils and trade unionists in Germany.
But at least during Habeck’s visit to Bosch, that’s not an issue. It’s about training and recruiting skilled workers. Rafał Rudziński, CEO of Bosch Poland, would like to introduce the German dual training model consisting of vocational school and apprenticeship company in Poland. There are discussions with the ministries about this, he says.
He then explains to Habeck the company’s various models for further training employees, but also the efforts to attract new employees. This starts in schools. Classes are invited to tour the factory, the young people take part in technical competitions and do internships. “It’s very invigorating,” says Rudziński. The children, both boys and girls, often showed great technical interest. “They really want to understand it.”
Bosch also works directly with technical schools and universities. Finding skilled workers is also difficult in Poland, which faces the same demographic problem as most European countries. “Honest answer: What do young people prefer to assemble, an electric motor or a combustion engine?” Habeck wants to know in the training hall. He receives a friendly laugh and is able to hear for the second time that e-mobility is currently neither popular nor widespread in Poland, but Bosch has been offering relevant training and further education since 2018.
By the way, not only students and trainees come by to find out something, but also their teachers and lecturers. “But we don’t come to them at the universities,” explains a trainer to the economics minister. What he means: The lecturers learn from Bosch, not Bosch from the university lecturers. “We’re just better,” he says and laughs.
Then Habeck wants to know how they do it here with the heat pumps. “Who installs them?” In Germany there is a conflict between the plumber who is responsible for water and heat and the electrician. The answer is that we are observing a generational change. In Poland, too, plumbers were learning to expand their knowledge and combine it into one profession.
Directly on the Shortage of skilled workers When asked, Habeck later said: “Germany has messed this up for too long. The shortage of skilled workers came with an announcement.” But Poland could give Germany impulses. He sees them here at Bosch. Using synergies between different professions is a sensible measure. One such approach is uniform advice between the electricity and installation sectors. “Then you don’t have more skilled workers, but you do have bundled advice.” Ultimately, the heat pump should also come to the customer. Looking for ways in which work can be done more efficiently is, in addition to the necessary immigration and further training or retraining for employees, an important measure as long as there are too few specialists.