For at least two decades, farmers in Poland have relied heavily on workers recruited from abroad (Górny and Kaczmarczyk 2018, 2020). The vast majority of the 137,000 workers employed in 2021 were seasonal workers from Ukraine, who usually take up employment for a few weeks, often agreeing to work under exploitative and unstable employment conditions (e.g. borrowing workers, working without a written contract or working 7 days a week). Although employers, as a result of the structural shortage of workers, have been forced to implement elements of socially responsible strategies for recruitment and retention in recent years (see Kroon and Paauwe 2014), there are still numerous examples of work in unsafe and precarious conditions (Fiałkowska and Matuszczyk 2021). However, this situation may change in 2022 , mainly due to the massive influx of refugees from Ukraine fleeing the aggression of Russian troops. Preliminary observations and interviews with fruit growers reveal, on the one hand, concerns about recruiting workers for fruit picking and increasing wage rates and, on the other hand, there may be examples of exploitation of workers who have been given temporary shelter.
The presentation aims to explain how the mass influx of refugees changes the functioning of farmers and thus agricultural production in Poland in 2022. The presentation will analyse the discourse that has emerged in the public space about the moral obligation of farmers and helping Ukrainians who have been saving Polish agriculture for many years. In addition, conclusions from in-depth interviews conducted in the first weeks of the war in Ukraine will be presented, as well as analyses from field research to be conducted in June-October 2022 in the Grójec district. This will be a continuation of research conducted by the author since 2019, which consists of participant observation on five farms (i.e. working together with Ukrainian workers, interviewing them and their employers) during intensive fruit or vegetable harvesting. Using the lens of the good employer (Rye and Scott 2020), I will show the structural determinants and impact of the new crisis on the daily practices and strategies of farmers employing Ukrainian workers. In doing so, I will shed new light on the problem of refugees in rural areas and how they are treated as seasonal workers, which is still poorly recognised in the literature (Kavak 2016; Pelek 2019).