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Poland's biggest coal firm to give miners more cash as election looms

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By Reuters
Poland's biggest coal firm to give miners more cash as election looms
FILE PHOTO: General view of Wujek Coal Mine is seen during sunset in Katowice, Poland October 16, 2108. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo   -   Copyright  Kacper Pempel(Reuters)

KATOWICE, Poland (Reuters) – Poland’s biggest coal company, state-run PGG, agreed on Monday to spend 44 million zlotys ($11 million) on one-off bonuses for miners this year, its chief executive said after talks with trade unions which demanded more cash as an election looms.

Pressure for salary increases is building in coal mining and other industries before a parliamentary election on Oct. 13. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) has pledged to increase the minimum wage and raise teachers’ salaries, among other promises.

Coal has fuelled Poland’s economy for years and a promise to support it has been used in previous political campaigns, due to the strength of the coal unions and a large mining workforce.

PiS won an election in 2015 partly on promises to sustain coal at a time when PGG almost collapsed on low coal prices and rising costs. Since then, prices have rebounded, the industry has been restructured and the number of miners declined.

Attitudes among Poles have also shifted in recent years due to increased awareness of coal’s impact on the environment.

“We can afford to pay out such an amount for the employees and this will not have an impact on our investment spending planned for this year,” PGG Chief Executive Tomasz Rogala told reporters.

While PGG management board agreed extra bonuses would be paid in 2019, the unions and management have agreed to revive talks on 2020 salary increases in November, after PGG third-quarter results.

“We have achieved what was most important to us. For sure we will revive talks after PGG third quarter results,” said Boguslaw Hutek, the head of Solidarity union at PGG.

PGG employs around 42,000 people and its 2018 net profit stood at 493 million zlotys.

(This story corrects election date to Oct. 13 in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski; Writing by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Edmund Blair)