Interview with Mirosław Gilarski
President of PKP Utrzymanie
In 2016 PKP Utrzymanie worked out financial profit for the first time. What
determined the success of the company?
The new management took control in March 2016 and started ordering relations within the company. Until June we have restructured the company, so that we could use its potential to the optimum extent. In July we signed a collective bargaining agreement with trade unions effective as of 1 October 2016. In December we concluded a new, two-year contract with PKP PLK S.A. regarding public address and visual passenger information systems on main railway stations in Poland. Increased effectiveness, stable employee relations and increased sales activity are factors that had a positive impact on profitability. However, it was just the beginning. In December/January we made an agreement with TK Telekom and eliminated all disputable issues arising in connection with our company being separated from its structures. Thus, we have unlocked our potential. In 2017 we negotiated new maintenance agreements with our main customers which take into account specific information about our services. It will offer an advantage to both parties: our customers receive higher quality services and we increase our profitability.
The business development strategy until 2021 is a very important corporate
document. What are its main assumptions and objectives?
It should be emphasized that this is the first such a document in the company. It sets out 11 strategic objectives to be accomplished in five years. The main financial objective is increase in sales. We intend to achieve it by opening new fields of collaboration with PKP PLK S.A., extending our basic offer and increasing efficiency in tenders. The new field for cooperation is maintaining the fibre optic infrastructure of PKP PLK S.A. It refers to those fibre optic lines which after expiration of the warranty period will be maintained by our experts. Other areas of planned collaboration with PKP PLK S.A. is taking over maintenance of specialist equipment and systems such as, for example, air conditioning units, alarm and fire protection systems and electronic access control systems used in railway facilities. Also, negotiations are pending regarding business alliances. It will make it possible to extend our offer, in particular in terms of supplying, implementing and servicing specific models of railway equipment. It mainly refers to radiocommunications equipment, GSM-R, DGT exchanges, SDIP and CCTV. Apart from the challenging financial objectives we have also adopted objectives regarding improvements in the company’s operations and increasing its competences. Until 2019 we intend to implement modern information systems supporting services and business management. This year we introduced training to develop skills adequate to current technological challenges.
The company services, among other things, 100-year-old overhead telecommunications lines and 80-year-old copper cables in lead sheaths. Are there any plans to renew this infrastructure?
Modernisation of Polish railway infrastructure has become faster. Every year tens or even hundreds of kilometres of worn out copper telecommunications lines are replaced with fibre optic lines. We have no influence on the rate of investing processes but for major faults of old cables or telecommunications lines we modernise them in sections. Nevertheless, copper cables in lead sheaths will still remain in use for many years but only as supplementary lines. Progress in technology has contributed to introducing new, improved solutions but for economic reasons old lines that are in a good operating condition have still been in use. Thus, our experts’ knowledge and skills enable integration of all telecommunications systems in use.
Running performance of numerous obligations throughout Poland requires specialist equipment to enable fast identification and removal of faults. How is the company going to adapt the tools to the changing needs?
Our operating strategy for 2017-2021 assumes a fixed level of investment in modern diagnostic tools. The company has already started purchasing modern measuring equipment as well as machinery and equipment, among other things, RD7100 TL/PL sets for locating and routing pipes and cables with a GPS locator and RB6000 CE reflectometers for measuring cable parameters and identifying faults. It will accelerate and improve the provision of services but also facilitate tasks performed by workers in charge of installation, maintenance and service of infrastructure and removal of faults.
PKP Utrzymanie is also responsible for communicating information to passengers at railway stations and platforms. Many things have improved but the situation in Poland is still not perfect especially in non-metropolitan areas. What measures has the company undertaken to improve, for example, the audibility of announcements?
Apart from making announcements and communicating voice messages our workers can maintain public address systems in good operating condition. However, it is a separate service not covered by the public address services agreement. For example, before the World Youth Festival our team from Kraków modernised the loudspeakers at railway stations and stops in the area of Brzegi where the main mass celebrated by the Pope took place. Despite there were crowds of people, all announcements could be heard excellently. We were able to effectively improve the PA system, which we can also do on any railway platform in the non-metropolitan regions of Poland. All we need is an order from the station’s administrator.
A success of the company is, without any doubt, the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the whole crew. What can you tell us after it has been in effect for six months?
In March 2016, when the new management took control over the company, employee affairs were seriously disorganised. New employees joining the company under different agreements had different rights guaranteed according to their previous employer’s collective bargaining agreements. Both the management board and trade unions lived up to the challenge and within a record-breaking time of four months we negotiated and signed a new collective bargaining agreement for PKP Utrzymanie. This way we put the employee relations in order. The effects could be seen as soon as after one month and they contributed to an increase in the amount of money awarded to the workers on the Railwayman’s Day in comparison with such amounts awarded by other companies. In January 2017, based on the new collective bargaining agreement, the management board awarded raises to workers to be paid from June and the budget plans of the company for 2017 show an increase in payroll expenditure. The atmosphere at work supports the performance of strategic objectives of our company, which makes it possible to take an optimistic look into the future.