Global steel giant ArcelorMittal is paying bonuses of up to 2,000 zloty (€441) to its staff in Poland who vaccinate against COVID-19. In the first two weeks of the campaign, more than 2,000 of the firm’s employees – a fifth of its staff in Poland – have registered for the scheme.
“We treat these activities as an investment in improving the safety of all employees and their relatives,” said company spokeswoman Sylwia Winiarek-Erdoğan, who noted that the decision was made in consultation with trade unions.
The company pays out the first half of the bonus, 1,000 zloty, to staff members who are fully vaccinated with two doses (or one in the case of the single-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The same amount of money is awarded after a booster shot.
Winiarek-Erdoğan said that over 20% of employees registered for the scheme in its first two weeks. “We have already received applications during the Christmas and New Year’s break, and they are still flowing in intensively,” she told Interia. The campaign is set to last until the end of September.
ArcelorMittal, which is the world’s largest steal maker, employs 10,000 people in Poland. It owns two large smelting plants in the south of the country, Huty Katowice in Dąbrowa Górnicza and Huty im. T. Sendzimira in Kraków. In 2020, it announced the permanent closure of its blast furnace in Kraków.
Poland’s parliament is currently working on legislation put forward by the health ministry in early November that will allow employers to verify whether their staff have been vaccinated. Employees are currently under no obligation to disclose that information.
The bill has, however, faced some opposition from within the ruling coalition, which contains a handful of MPs who are opposed to what they call “sanity segregation” that could result in unvaccinated employees being discriminated against.
The health ministry has also made it compulsory for all medical staff to be fully vaccinated by 1 March, and hopes to introduce similar measures for the uniformed services and teachers.
Some parties have been pushing for more decisive action, with Poland’s left-wing opposition proposing making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all adults and fining those who refuse to get the jab.
Around 57% of Poland’s population are fully vaccinated, a figure that has risen little since reaching 50% in August and which is well below the figure of 70% across the European Union as a whole.
In recent months, over 70% of Covid deaths in Poland have been of unvaccinated people.
Maria Wilczek is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She is a regular writer for The Times, The Economist and Al Jazeera English, and has also featured in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, The Spectator and Gazeta Wyborcza.