Coal Companies Need More Miners in Silesia

The company’s latest attempt at dealing with the problem is organizing a free year-long training course for those interested in becoming miners, according to the daily Gazeta Wyborcza. Part of the training will be underground.

The company, which runs 16 mines, had hoped that opening technical colleges on mining at the beginning of this year would ease the labor shortage. But only 307 students applied for the colleges’ 800 slots.

Gazeta Wyborcza said many Polish miners have fled to Great Britain, Ireland, Spain and even India, which offer higher wages than Poland. British mines pay more than 14 pounds an hour, or the equivalent of 11,648 zloty a month. That is almost 10 times more than the 1,200 zloty a month that miners earn in Silesia. Lukasz Tympalski, a fifth-year mining student at the University of Science and Technology in Krakow said he is thinking about working in England after graduating.

“The miners’ work there is appreciated,” he said.

In addition, British miners earn a salary that equates “to the risk that they take each day,” he said. “People understand how difficult this job is. In Polish mines, besides the low earnings, safety standards aren’t obeyed. That’s why we have so many accidents.”

Web sites that list mining jobs overseas don’t require much ? mining education or experience plus basic English.

So many miners want to work abroad that an entrepreneur named Zygmunt Koprowski set up a company in Zywiec at the beginning of this year to help them land jobs in Britain. It is called Building Business Bridges.

Poland’s government-owned mines also compete for workers with privately owned Polish mines that pay better ? though not as much as mines overseas. The privately owned Polish companies also offer better workers’ benefits, Gazeta Wyborcza.

The number of miners in Poland has dropped from 400,000 at the start of the free-enterprise system in Poland in 1990 to 110,000 today. Much of that loss involved the closure of inefficient operations.

The labor shortage comes at a time when demand for coal is strong overseas, especially in countries such as China whose industries are booming.

The government mines 53 mln tons of coal a year, much of which it exports.

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