Stone 2016
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MAZOWIECKA GRUPA HANDLOWA WYŁĄCZNYM DYSTRYBUTOREM LEVANTINY

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Frontpage Slideshow | Copyright © 2006-2011 JoomlaWorks Ltd.

THE 100TH ISSUE… AND EXPECT MORE!

You are right now reading the 100th issue of Świat Kamienia. Life expectancy studies show that every third person who is born today will live up to 100 years old. Therefore, it is highly possible that as soon as our future readers (who are born now) are 100 years old, they will get the 700th issue of our bimonthly then!  

We seem to be in a good shape. The condition of our magazine allows us to hope that one hundred issues is just a warm-up. We are trying to be as precise as stone industry professionals. We reach our subscribers every second month. We are still working with authors who remember humble beginnings of the first stone branch magazine in Poland.

– Świat Kamienia initiated stone advertising in Poland and abroad – our long-time article author Józef Maślaniec recalls. – The magazine was the first authentic source of information about stone industry and technology in the history of journalism (not mentioning a short series of post-war periodicals). Until that moment our branch had been commonly associated only with crushing stone for the purposes of paving streets. Before the war there was no stone industry and this craft was associated with elite art.

100 wydanieBefore Świat Kamienia appeared on the market it had been commonly said that building stone tradition had originated from sacral buildings. After the period of political transformation, the competition for national deposits was justified because our deposits were quite poor from the geological point of view and extraction costs were disproportionately high compared to profits, which found its reflection in lower stone extraction and production volumes from domestic rock raw materials. Privatization of mines of rock raw materials took place in the second half of 1990s. At that time the natural stone consumption in the European Union countries started growing and natural material was experiencing a renaissance. Making stone import more common in a new Polish economic reality led to the moment that the unprecedented activity of entrepreneurs had to be complemented by just one thing – by giving any branch representation and coordination framework in terms of communication.  

Świat Kamienia was created, among others, on the initiative of Tomasz Czekaj. A young businessman who started his serious trade business in mid 1990s (and shortly after in the field of sandblasting machines) had no doubts.  

– The branch had to have its magazine. The hunger for information and the entrepreneurs' need to communicate (since not everybody could afford to go abroad and take part in fairs) left no doubt – Tomasz Czekaj recalls the decision taken to the delight of ABRA employees in the hotel room during ... advertising fair in Poznań.

Another justification for the debut of our bimonthly was that at that time the structures of the branch representation started to crystallise. The Association of Stone Industry Employers had its media patron from the start and our magazine got high quality stone-related texts.

PRESS TITLE

From the very first issue our magazine was full of reports from international fairs – Nuremberg Fair was the priority then, Verona was trying to be more and more significant (our younger readers may not be familiar with this). With every new issue there were more and more advertisements and sponsored texts, so, consequently, the size of our magazine was increasing.

100 wydanie 2– Everything that is new is interesting, so everybody reacted in a similar way. Advertisements of stone blocks from Finland were quickly followed by advertisements from other companies – Dominik Lis, one of our first advertisers, recalls the beginnings of his cooperation with Świat Kamienia. - I remember the emotions we felt while waiting for the first supply of stone. Those sleepless nights during which my wife and I were writing 1,200 letters with notifications to our clients. And today? I can make a notification within 5 minutes and send it by email to all our clients.  

Later, Athena company started advertising in Świat Kamienia. The company is famous for importing materials from Greece. There were more and more companies which dealt with importing stone material. It was caused by opening up of borders and lifting of tariff barriers – the import finally got the green light.  

The variety of raw materials became attractive for architecture. The branch experienced a great development. It was much bigger than in other countries. One of the first tycoons in trading block stone and slabs was Brachot-Hermant, an indisputable leader on the market of natural stone in Belgium. This company opened its first foreign branch in Poland in 1993. Other companies followed. One of them was M+Q – a key supplier of natural stone on the Polish market since 2004. The infrastructure, however, was poor. Those who had a telephone and a fax were a step ahead of their competitors.    

– In early 1990s I had a phone in my car, so I was on the top – laughs Tadeusz Modliński, the owner of Kamieniarz company, which had its debut at Nuremberg fair in 1993. - During the fair in Wałbrzych we were partying even more, because I decided to celebrate my birthday then.  

Free market whetted appetites of entrepreneurial Poles. Those who were consistent in what they were doing might have afforded a luxury car in a month. There were many anecdotes about “golden kings” (Adam Bukacki, the owner of Chem-Stone company was one of those who had that nickname – editorial note) because the margin for more lavish tombstones was many times higher than the cost of its production! Machines were being sold very well because the need to modernise both mines and processing plants was enormous. The first wave of modernising machinery parks was possible thanks to trade routes via Germany and Italy. Among used equipment there were more expensive and advanced tools (for example Diakers saws and bridge saws). A long time before Italian technology became popular in Poland, Polish stonemasons had been using reliable German machines (Fickert + Winterling, for example). Another interesting alternative, from economical point of view, were machines that were based on Polish technology (we should mention the late Jan Wątroba here, one of the first constructors of “made in Poland” machines in capitalist Poland and the founder of Promech company), but we should not forget about important role of small, usually anonymous, craftsmen. Saws or technologically uncomplicated crushers and, most of all, cranes and handling equipment were “assembled” on one's own, often in poor conditions. Therefore, locksmiths' role was incredibly significant here.

BRANCH

As soon as modernisation processes had started, the demand on staff became incredibly high. Graduates from AGH University of Science and Technology or Wrocław University of Technology are still the core in open-cast mining, but the reality looks different if it comes to stone industry. Few attempts to revive vocational education took place in 1960s. In the new capitalist system only few specialists cared about this issue. What is the effect?  

100 wydanie 3– There were no qualified workers in our branch in all those years and there are none of them today either! - says Krzysztof Skolak, a long-time teacher at the only Polish school with stone courses and a president of ZPBK since its 19th General Meeting. Qualified workers used to come to stone branch (and are coming now) in a very limited number thanks to multi-professional classes which gather young people who want to find niche or disappearing professions.

It is true that in the Technical and General High School Complex in Sandomierz there is (the only in Poland) Technical School of Stucco Work and Artistic Stone Craft, but we need to add that there are only a few students there. We cannot forget that some employers have special merits here. Their initiatives in the field of specialised education are very important for the future of our industry. One of those companies is Przedsiębiorstwo Kamieniarskie “Wolski”, which has trained hundreds of young people since 1985. This company often collaborates with chambers of crafts or “Bazalt” foundation from Strzegom in organising special events for students of architecture or with stone branch schools from Germany or the Czech Republic under the EU-sponsored project.

The accession to the European Union meant for stone industry another chance to modernise machinery park – this time with an enormous financial support from the funds from Regional Operational Programmes. Stone companies used funds mainly to buy new machines: water jets, polishing lines, CNC machines. In 2007 there were as many as 92 projects worth 70 million zlotys with the financial EU support of 30-50 percent of the investment value.   

Let us also mention the potential of our branch in numbers. In 1995 the catalogue entitled “Kamieniarz Polski” (Polish stonemason) made by h.g. BRAUNE company included less than 500 companies. Whereas according to the Świat Kamienia reports on the condition of stone industry in Poland,  the number of businesses in which the prevailing activity is “cutting, processing and finishing stone” (you can find it under the symbol PKD 23.70.Z) is 6879.

100 wydanie 4One thing is certain: in the last years we have experienced quantitative, technological and qualitative development of stone industry in Poland. Recently tombstone industry has become less significant compared to the so-called “construction” stone industry. The proportions changed and today at least 60% of supply is the so-called “thin slab”. The demand on tombstones? It is strongly correlated with the number of deaths and inversely proportional to the popularity of cremation. It is estimated that annual average demand on tombstones is now about 2 million sq metres and is going down. What is more, in the time of huge competition of cheap goods from the countries with high competitiveness growth such as Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC), more and more companies are reducing their production capacities. Signing an agreement between the European Union and China on the access to the market was an important event. It was in May 2000 and paved the way for China to become a WTO member. Sawing of blocks seems to be an unprofitable activity because of the policy of the EU which has been the main trade partner of South Africa for many years. The cooperation is regulated by the Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) from 1999. Raw minerals (including gold and diamonds, but also stone) constitute as many as 60% of goods exported from the RSA to the EU.

– We have applied the EU standards as soon as we joined the EU. What did it change? Previous standards specified requirements that every stone used to make a given product must meet. The EU standards specify only types of studies, but specifying parameters is up to the designer. It is not good because we know that architects do not always know a lot about stones – complains Stanisław Sitarz, a long-time member of Stone Industry Employers Association (ZPBK).

Why are architects afraid of stone? This question was raised during the heated debate organised by Świat Kamienia at Kamień-Stone 2013 fair in Poznań.

CHALLENGES

Does high demand on natural raw material (stone) mean that the society is getting richer? It is not so obvious. Poland is currently the third largest producer of ceramics, glass and concrete goods in Europe and the largest manufacturer of concrete cube in Europe!

We got used to the situation that a typical stonemason is busy with things related to running a company. Hire a manager! - our long-time author encouraged stonemasons in one of ŚK issues. Rafał Zahorski's suggestions did not remain unanswered. Translating values of natural rock material into the success on the market depends more and more on communicating our competences.

– We, apart from publishing ads in branch magazines, also made our debut in LOT airline in-flight magazine “Kaleidoscope” - admits Paweł Młynarski from I-Mar company, which was established in 1989 and is now specialising in stone construction works.

Natural stone is not only popular as a building material used on facades or as an interior finishing element. Its role is growing in the places where it is treated as a material that shapes our daily landscape. In Świat Kamienia we were writing about many initiatives that make small architecture forms popular – to mention only gabions! Stone craft supports exposing natural and cultural values which guarantees development of tourism (didactic paths). We are going to write more about this in the coming issues of Świat Kamienia.

Rafał Dobrowolski

SUSTAINABLE USE OF RESOURCES

When we carry out an activity during which waste is produced, we should plan, project and carry out these activities in such a way to avoid waste production or reduce its amount and negative impact on people's health and environment – both when goods are produced and after using them.

srodowisko 1The above conclusion is a brief summary of some Polish regulations. Which ones? These are the regulations concerning managing waste which is produced as a result of stone processing. They are stated in the act as of 14 December 2012 on waste (Journal of Law from 2013, clause 21 with further amendments). Managing waste should take place according to a certain order, which is mentioned in article 17 of the waste act. Then, first you need to prevent waste production, but when it is impossible, waste must be recycled. The least appropriate is waste disposal, including storage.

- If activity, during which waste is produced, is related to operation of an installation, there is a need to obtain a permit on waste production, which is stated in article 180a in the act as of 27 April 2001 – environmental protection law (Journal of Laws from 2013, clause 1232 with further amendments). The permit for producing waste is required when exploitation may cause emission of hazardous waste amounting to more than 1 Mg per year or other non-hazardous waste (more than 5,000 Mg per year), says Katarzyna Pliszczyńska, a spokeswoman of the Polish Ministry of Environment.

- When we want to manage waste, article 41 of waste act applies. It says that collecting waste and processing waste requires obtaining a special permit issued by a competent authority (the Marshall of the Province, the District Governor) of the place of collecting or processing of waste. A regional director of environmental protection is the competent authority for issuing permits for collecting waste and permits for processing waste in enclosed areas. We need to remember that according to article 66 (1)s of the waste act, every person who has waste, including producers of waste, is obliged to keep quantitative and qualitative records (excluding situations mentioned in clause 4 of the above article). Moreover, according to article 75 (1) of the waste act, the waste owner (including waste producers) who keeps waste records is obliged to draw up an annual report on waste he produced and waste management. Entities obliged to draw up the above reports have to submit them by 15 March for the previous calendar year to the competent Marshal of the Province depending on the location of producing, collecting or processing waste (it applies to reports on produced waste and waste management).

srodowisko 2Vertical clarifiers with filter bags are commonly found and dehydrators are a perfect solution for small stone companies, but automatic water treatment plants are, of course, the most effective. They are often found in bigger plants. No matter which solution we choose, it is worth going one step further.  

- Firstly, stonemasons should spare a thought if they do not waste their money, because grinding or cutting waste are perfect additives for concrete and there are technical approvals issued for this waste – encourages Grzegorz Skórka, a former employee of the Provincial Construction Supervision Inspectorate in Katowice.
- Secondly, we must note that using natural resources is more and more important for the legislator. For example, according to Annex 1 to the Regulation no 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council as of 9 March 2011, it has been indicated that construction object as a whole as well as its particular parts must be fit for their intended use. Health and safety of people who use these objects for the whole life cycle of these buildings must be taken into account. Thirdly, it is worth recalling article 91 (2) of the act as of 29 January 2004 – public procurement law, where it is stated that environmental aspects may be one of the tender evaluation criteria. As a matter of fact, this criterion is not used too often (except for price, warranty and deadline are the most important in construction works), but possibly it may change with the growing ecological awareness (the ideas included in “Green public procurement” are currently being promoted).

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

Environmental policy in the whole Europe is more and more often shaped by the need to influence production activities in order to reduce the impact of production and then use and disposal of various products on environment. Sustainable industrial waste management requires introducing cleaner production which uses low-waste technologies as well as internal and integrated management of raw material flows. It refers to all possible actions which may reduce the amount of raw materials and energy which are used to create products, improve disposal of production waste and raw materials which are left as well as to ensure closed flow of raw materials and to avoid or find a substitute for particularly hazardous substances.

srodowisko 3Proper waste management is a duty of every stone company. In practice, however, containers are often the only way of storing waste in production plants. It is a pity, because we proved that aqueous waste may be a remedy for growing needs of eco-friendly agriculture, eco-friendly gardening and eco-friendly horticulture! Publications written by experts show that, for example, stone powder contains almost all elements, minerals and micro-elements. One thing is certain: stone powder will be more and more often treated as a kind of reserve tank of fertilizers in the ground, which is gradually and slowly emptied. In other words, we can say that the one who uses stone powder practically should not or even cannot make a mistake in fertilizing! Due to this, stone powder is recommended particularly to beginners in gardening, fruit farming or farming who are just trying new eco-friendly methods (biodynamic agriculture).  

- Rock powder should be used in every horticulture. This waste can be used provided it is tested if there are any hazardous components and provided it obtains a certificate of product's competence – says Professor Kazimierz Klima from Hugon Kołłątaj Agricultural University from Cracow.  

So far ecological waste management has been most favourable for stone mines. The list of fertilizers and soil conditioners qualified for use in ecological agriculture can be found on the website of the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation in Puławy.

LIFE CYCLE OF PRODUCTS

A common problem for most stonemasons may turn out to be an essential advantage of waste. This is the way of thinking of the owner of GRANIT-MAR company from Kościan who mastered the technology of natural granite dust recycling. A substitute for limestone (its sales name is Grano) has much better properties than Polish standards require. This is also proven by a certificate which proves the sense of using it as a substitute for limestone in masonry and plastering mortars. But also here the estimated demand for prefabricated elements fell flat.  

- Distrust prevails. Concrete plants prefer proven methods with the use of ashes, so I make prefabricated monument bases (for my own needs) out of the additive in the form of aqueous suspension. I store the surplus, but I haven't solved the problem of waste management this way – admits Mirosław Gryś.
As we know, sludge thickens through the action of gravity and gets the consistency of a thick mud. Is this another idea?

- Strongly hydrated sludge may be used as an input to batch concrete mix. It improves mechanical, operating and aesthetic conditions. Aesthetic ones as well because small stone elements may look beautiful with artificial LED lights – says Piotr Szmyt, BEng, a chief water technology and waste advisor of Hydrokraft.

- This is our licentia poetica, because we are in talks about funds for an innovative method. We know that sludge may play a significant role in the production of prefabricated elements.

But now most manufacturing companies have to use ad hoc solutions. Companies from Strzegom, for example, may count on Pracownicza Spółka z o. o. “GRANIT” over the decade. Waste from stone cutting and sawing is just a fraction of what is accepted here as part of the land recultivation.

GRIT VS SLUDGE

What can we do with a very heavy and thick sludge? Now, let us have a look at this problem from the point of view of machine performance degradation. As we know, the degree of water recirculation in the technological process of sludge production depends to a great extent on suitability of a given sludge fraction to reuse and on allowed pollution level accumulated in the process. Our aim should be, of course, to increase the degree of water recirculation.   

Water in machines for cutting and processing stone plays two roles: it cools diamond tools and reduces their wear; dynamic water activity flushes grit out of working area. Flushed water with grit forms emulsion which, in case there is no water treatment plant, is supplied by a water pump back to the tool. What is the effect? Channels which supply water overgrow.

- Water demand is not small. CNC machines need a 10 litre-per-minute water flow. In case of Intermacc machines, we need five micron filters. If we neglect this, the drive becomes inordinately hot, which leads to faster degradation of windings and bearings. Let us remind, as a warning, that a new electro-spindle costs approximately 8,000-10,000 Euros – says Paweł Szczepanik from Mekanika company.

Cleaning CNC machines means a costly downtime. It often takes a day to bring back flow capacity of cooling channels. Water with stone grit also contributes to the wear of all movable elements and processing tools. What is worse, water polluted with grit turns into sediment which settles in collective containers. Compact and hard to remove planes are a real problem, because modern machines are more and more often equipped with plastic elements which makes attempts to get rid of sediment in an impact way impossible.

Grit is classified as a product of machining. Glass processing in the form of phasing, cutting or engraving is a typical abrasion of a surface. Whilst sludge is a term that can be applied only to urban and industrial waste water. So why did we speak about grit and not sludge when discussing water circuit in a stone company?
- Grit is a term applied only to abrasion processes and seems to be a more proper name for stone branch. This way we can explain the advantage of our in-house sedimentation technology, which is a process of separating suspension into clean liquid and residue – explains Piotr Szmyt, BEng.

- My company has been a forerunner of installations dedicated to glass industry, where grit is more difficult to manage. Post-production grits after glass grinding are 20 microns in diameter. In case of stone processing, we've got a 200-micron grit. Sedimentation in our installations occurs very quickly. Our idea is based on compaction of deposited sludge. The compaction, that is reducing sedimented grit in size, results in complete de-watering of sludge and sticking of very hard deposits whose consistency and firmness bring to mind … sandstones. Importantly, a chemical method can also help these processes.  By using magnetic processes, which is our secret, we can offer a premium version of the installation.

Some stonemasons have already got interested in this innovative method. Preventive qualities of installation constituted the most important argument. What can we say about costs of using installation like this? Not much now because collecting data has just started since the metered installations have been working for just a few months.

- I had a waste water treatment plant, but the machinery park which was situated at the other end of the area required an energy-consuming pumping of sludge from waste containers. The proposal by HydroKraft tempted me with an incredibly attractive price – says Antoni Młynarski, the owner of I-Mar company.

- Now water in a closed circuit reaches three saws. I really like the ecological value of the installation and the fact that electronics controls all cleaning processes. The difference is huge because cleanliness of the work areas in my company significantly improved.

It appears that technological water may work in a closed circuit – not including micro-defects  (evaporation, splashing water). Post-production waste? This issue seems to be “problematic” now and is waiting for innovators.

Rafał Dobrowolski

KAMIEŃ 2015 WINNERS

Kamien 2015 7Jury of this year's Kamień 2015 competition granted as many as seven Caryatid statuettes for best stone projects in traditional categories.  

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AGREEMENTS MADE IN A NEW WAY

The time of intensive building works in cemeteries is now over. The weather was good for finalising contracts for raising tombstones. That's it: agreements. Public procurement in Poland is a field of law which to a great extent limits the freedom of contracting and choosing contractors, but in the field of consumer rights we are facing a completely new situation.  

Public procurement in Poland does not allow for free performance of acts by the ordering party. Only entities which fulfil criteria specified in the Public Procurement Act are allowed to provide the services in question. Article 24 in the Public Procurement Act specifies criteria which are taken into account when excluding contractors. The above act also specifies criteria which must be fulfilled by bidding entities.   

mediacjeInterestingly, the term bid is not uniformly understood by public procurement law. What is more, public procurement law introduces its own rules and may regulate some issues in a different way than other laws. A conclusion? In spite of frequent use of the term “bid” in Polish law, there is no legal definition of this term. Competences as regards proper understanding of “bid” term are in the hands of the National Chamber of Appeals and common courts. For example, Civil Code provisions may be applied only when public procurement law does not include its own regulations or when they are incomplete.  

All that was mentioned above is just a short summary of the publication for legal advisors (Radca Prawny, Zeszyty Naukowe nr 2/2015). What do we mean by the bid? Is it just the declaration of the contractor about his obligations? Or perhaps additional documents are also a part of a bid – besides the bid form – if they refer directly to contractor's obligations? So, if a contractor is obliged to submit a complete bid which includes all declarations and documents, perhaps the name of the bid should also mean objective and financial schedule required by the ordering party if the schedule also shows that the contractor is obliged to perform particular parts of the order in specified periods of time. Consequently, does it mean that also expected deadlines for the payments of invoices issued by the contractor should also be treated as a part of the bid? The authors of the publication mentioned above are sure that the term “bid” is not uniformly understood.

ONE THING IS SURE

Public orders mean public money which must be spent rationally and guarantee best possible effects. Because of this the principle of freedom of contract is limited. However, the current legal status in this field is not perfect.  

In the last issue we discussed a problem of disputes arising on the ground of completing orders (also public ones) highlighting the opportunity to reach consensus by mediation. Now it is time to have a closer look at relations between buyers and sellers, which means, in case of contracts for specific work and construction works contracts – also relations between investors and contractors. Most of us are, I think, aware of the fact that a very important (for construction and stone branches) amendment to the Civil Code was introduced last year.  

The amendment introduced by means of the consumer rights act as of 30 May 2014 (Journal of Laws 2014, point 827) transposes into Polish law the European Parliament and Council directive (no. 2011/83/EU as of 25 October 2011) on consumer rights. According to the law, the statutory warranty makes the seller responsible for physical defects of a property if this defect is noticed five years before the property was handed over to the buyer. Expiration period of the rights under statutory warranty (in case of properties' defects) has been extended by two years.  

- It is an important change, in my opinion. Stone goods are often exposed to harmful weather factors since they are installed (for example sculptures or tombstones) or laid (paving stones) outdoor and must be resistant to freeze/thaw cycles. Longer statutory warranty period will make the responsibility bigger – says Grzegorz Skórka, the head of the Inspection Department of the Silesian Provincial Office.

- The above mentioned changes in civil law show that consumer rights are bigger and bigger. It is worth stressing that although we are now in a transitional period it refers only to contracts and related warranties which were concluded before 24 December 2014. New law refers to contracts concluded from 25 December 2014 (article 51 of this act says that agreements concluded before the date of entry into force of this act shall be subject to the legislation hitherto in force).  

mediacje 2Developers who had commenced their investment before the law changed, used to make construction work agreements with general contractors in which statutory warranty and/or warranty for defects was 3 years long. The statutory warranty time will depend on the fact if the sales agreement had been made before the amendments of the civil code entered into force.  

TRANSITIONAL PERIOD

The most important changes in the law touch upon sales warranties making the seller's responsibility and the buyer's rights bigger. These rules are also applied in contracts for a specific work and construction works contracts. The amendment makes the definition of the term „physical defects” of things broader.   
- Broadening the definition of „physical defect” is, as for me, significant for distributors of stone goods. Now they must know if a product they offer on sale is suitable for the customer's needs. It is easy to imagine effects of the situation when a customer wants paving stones for paving a car park for trucks and the seller or his employee sells them paving stones designed only for making pavements for pedestrians” adds Grzegorz Skórka.

According to the definition, a physical defect means that a sold or built product is not as it is described in the sales agreement. It means that we also speak about a defect in a situation when a thing does not fit for the purpose about which the buyer informed the seller when signing an agreement (and the seller did not object to that use). We can also speak about a physical defect when the thing was badly installed, even if it was done by the buyer (unless he did not follow the manual).

In order to keep the statutory warranty we do not need to bring lawsuits before the statutory warranty expires. It is enough for a buyer to submit (before the statutory warranty expires) a declaration that a given thing has defects. After submitting the declaration about defects there is a year-long deadline for making claims to repair defects or change the thing. We must have in mind, however, that according to article 563 of the Civil Code, in case of sales contracts between entrepreneurs, the statutory warranty expires unless the buyer checks the thing within a time and in a way accepted for the things concerned and informs promptly the seller about the defect; or unless he informs the seller about the defect promptly after it is revealed (if the defect is revealed later).

Another important law for professionals says that in relations between entrepreneurs the seller may refuse to change the thing for a defect-free one or remove the defect if the costs are bigger than the value of the product sold. If a faulty thing has been installed, the investor will be allowed to demand to dismantle the thing and install it again after changing the thing into the fault-free one or after removing the fault. In case the contractor does not do it, the investor will be able to do it at the contractor's expense. It is worth mentioning that till now the entitlement of the investor to the so-called substitute performance was valid only during the performance of works (article 636 of the Civil Code) and not under statutory warranty. This change is potentially unfavourable to the contractor who should take care of a proper reduction of this risk in a contract.

Next, in place of the former entitlement to claim a lower price from the seller, the amendment grants the buyer (in case there are defects in the product) an entitlement to submit a one-page declaration about lowering the price or pay. It means that the buyer may indicate the amount to which the price should be reduced. We need to remember, however, that if the legal proceedings start, the buyer will have to prove that this amount is justified. This is another reason to recall the advantages of mediation – hearing of evidence is not so important then for  consensus-seeking.
   
MATERIAL ENTRUSTED BY THE CUSTOMER

mediacje 3What do new regulations offer to contractors? It is more and more often so that the stone in the wholesale is chosen by investors or ordering parties (for example to raise a monument). What if our customer purchases the material and asks us to do the work and the material turns out to be incorrectly selected? This situation may result in defects of the final work. From 25 December 2014 the law says directly that the contractor is not responsible for defects if they are result of a cause that is present in the material provided by the orderer. But watch out! We should inform the ordering party promptly about it (this fact should be written down in the agreement), because only then the contractor is not responsible (under statutory warranty) for defects of the work. If we do not do this, we may be liable to damages under the general provisions.

- We must take into consideration a specific character of stone goods, both those classified as construction goods (for example paving stones, stone bowls for making retaining walls) as well as sculptures, tombstones because their defects are often revealed after installation, especially after first winter. It would be absurd to tell the buyer to test frostresistance of each part of goods. I think it is acceptable to test the thing after first winter – says G. Skórka.

We should treat all we have said above as an opportunity for building a competitive advantage on the market if we aspire to be experts in our field.

SMALL ARCHITECTURE

So far we have analysed changes which are important for professionals who perform bigger works. Now we need to ask the following question: what is the difference between construction works contracts and contracts for a specific work? The latter one is usually applied when we deal with small architecture like tombstones. Unfortunately, in practice, defining a small architecture object is not so easy. The construction law says directly that small architecture object is „a small object, especially of religious worship such as chapels, roadside crosses, figures, statues, water effects and other garden architecture objects, recreation objects such as swings, sandpits, ladders, but also litter baskets”. Construction works contract cannot be applied here because the main criterion that differentiates this type of contract from contract for a specific work is assessment of the investment according to construction law requirements. In case of raising tombstones mandate contracts cannot be applied (article 734 of the Civil Code) because they are duty-of-care contracts. The parties should make a contract for a specific work because it is not about performing a work but achieving a result, so, in our case, not only raising a tombstone but also installing it.

Interestingly, in order to conclude contracts for a specific work we must apply rules concerning consensus contracts. In the Civil Law Code there are no special provisions concerning concluding contracts for a specific work. What is more, this type of contract does not need to have a special form. The contract can be also concluded verbally or it can be even implicitly assumed.  

Once we said that in our branch it is recommended to conclude agreements in a written form. It is important to specify a detailed scope of works or what the tombstone is supposed to look like (we need at least an outline). It is not recommended to speak about technical details with the orderer. Instead of a monument's technical drawing (where all dimensions are very precise), it is better to familiarise the orderer with estimated dimensions (length, width) and just an approximate thickness of a slab. Why? Many stonemasons lost their cases in courts because they installed covers which were half a centimetre thinner than declared in the drawing. Professionals know that thickness of slabs may vary by half a centimetre or even more.  For similar reasons, setting a precise completion date for building small funeral architecture objects is not a good idea, either. It is better to indicate a maximum deadline than a precise completion date. This way we can protect ourselves against weather conditions which can make installation of tombstone on that very day impossible.

Let us go back to discussing the differences between contracts for a specific work and construction works contracts. The main difference between these two types of contracts lies in the assessment of investment according to construction law requirements. It is important to see that contract for raising a tomb should be called a “contract for a specific work” and not a “mandate contract”. Why a “contract for a specific work”? Here, “work” means creating something new or changing one thing into another that does not exist now. It is important  when we apply Civil Code provisions to this type of contract as well as in assessment of will and obligations of the parties involved in a dispute. The contractor, being a party of a construction works contract, is obliged to build a thing in conformity with the project planning documents, technical knowledge and current technical and construction standards and then commission the building – depending on the provisions in the contract. Creating a “work” means achieving a specified result, for example creating a new thing, repairing, renovating or maintaining already existing things, etc. Contracts for a specific work shall be subject to the Civil Code provisions. These contracts are not subject to the Labour Code so they give the parties involved more freedom in setting rights and obligations (for example as regards the performance of the contract).   

A true stonemason should be also interested in the final effect, that is proper installation of a tombstone in the cemetery. It happens that installation is not performed well enough and it is a badly prepared ground that is the main reason for customer's complaint. It is sad to see leaning tombstones in cemeteries, but that is another story.  

Rafał Dobrowolski

MEDIATION SEEMS INNOVATIVE

Time is money, but the average waiting time to get an instrument permitting enforcement in Poland was as long as 584 days last year. When conflicting parties used mediator's services, they reached a consensus on financial receivables within 30 days. Moreover, the mediation fee was only 25% of the court fee and these are not all savings.

mediations 1.jpgManaging conflicts, moderating discussions, softening emotions – more and more people are learning mediation craft. Fairness and impartiality, confidentiality, humility and the knowledge of communication techniques are features and skills of a mediator. Mediator's duty is always the same: to bring a lasting resolution to the conflict and reach an agreement which is good for all the parties involved.  

Making mediation common among business people as well as taking some of the strain off the judicial system are also main objectives of a draft law on supporting conciliation methods of solving conflicts prepared by the Ministry of Economy in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. The document as of 24 July 2015 was accepted by the Polish Parliament. In early August, the Senate supported novelisation of the Civil Procedure Code and some other bills which aim, among others, at reducing costs of litigations and encouraging involved parties to mediation. The changes relating to supporting conciliation methods of settling disputes concern, most of all, provisions of the Civil Procedure Code.    

Proposals for amendments prepared by the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Justice aim to contribute to more common and more frequent use of mediation and arbitration, but also to shorten and improve court proceedings and reduce litigation costs, both for citizens and the state. The solutions proposed in the bill are complementary to each other and constitute a set of legal tools which supports taking advantage of conciliation methods of settling disputes in Poland. This document was set up in close cooperation with business people, academic community, judges and mediators. Mediation is by its nature a very flexible method. It creates perfect possibilities for managing conflicts. At the same time, however, it lets us keep control over the conflict situation. It helps to keep proper relations between parties of the conflict, which is particularly important in business relations. Consequently, mediation also creates a big space for lawyers to get involved in these activities, which is vital for their professional experience.  

- Mediation is the simplest way of alternative settling of disputes. I'm deeply convinced that branch of subcontractors also needs specialist knowledge on settling disputes – proves Małgorzata Miszkin-Wojciechowska, a legal advisor, mediator and a head of the Centre for Arbitration and Mediation affiliated to Konfederacja Lewiatan (Polish business organisation representing employers' interests in Poland and the EU).

- It is enough to have a look at the latest statistics. In 2013 courts of law received in total about 15 million of business applications including about 9 million of civil cases, 1.5 million of business cases, 1.4 million of family court cases and 120,000 cases relating to the labour law. Mediation is more and more common, but as statistics show, the proportions are not as they should be, though successful mediations are highly probable.

Between 1 January and 31 March the district court in Warsaw received 227 cases which were sent to mediation and in which the parties agreed to mediation. Agreements were reached in 55% of them, which means that mediations were successful. This proves that when the parties decide to try mediation, a compromise is achieved in over a half of the cases.

mediations 2.jpgWhich branches of economy is business mediation most successful in? The mediation statistics show that business mediation is the most effective in conflicts where long-term relations are important for involved parties. Branches in which business mediation is successful are services, construction, real estate. It also appears that mediation is more and more popular among stone industry entrepreneurs. Why?

- I had a situation that I had to sue a company which fell behind on its payment for stone works. The court proposed mediation and referred us to the mediation office where two parties met in a nice atmosphere and discussed various ways of settling the conflict – says Michał Firlej from Stone Consulting who experienced a situation like this a few months ago.
- Just one, a few hour long meeting was enough to reach a compromise. We didn't have to pay for much of the court fees, either. A conclusion? I really recommend such a way of settling disputes to my stone industry mates. It is not a secret that in our world there are many contracts which are not written down. It is not a surprise because stone industry originates from craft not from industry as such, and, in my opinion, this is the reason why everything is based on personal relations and why we discuss all the matters when the work is already in progress. Another thing is that we are sometimes scapegoats of low business culture in Poland. Many representatives of our stone industry community are still crediting big projects and big players on the construction market are our debtors. But this is another reason why we should appreciate mediation. Taking of evidence – characteristic for all court proceedings – is not so important here. It is easier to show your opinion and hope for empathy of the other party of the dispute in a nice atmosphere when there are no lawyers and experts sitting next to you.
I think that everybody knows that payment delays are more and more common in our branch. The latest report presented by the National Registry of Debts and the Conference of Financial Companies in Poland says that 84% of companies suffered (to a lesser or bigger extent) from payment delays in the second quarter of this year. Payment delays make small companies suffer the most. The debt towards them rose by 7 percent during the year to over 860 million PLN (ca. 215 million euros). Polish companies wait for settling payments on average 4 months with construction and transport companies waiting the longest. What is the situation of stone market for debtors and creditors?   

- Unfortunately, in our branch even before concluding the transaction, one of the parties already knows that he is going to pull the supplier's or subcontractor's leg. You can see this especially at tenders when the bid with the lowest price (often calculated below the costs) wins – says Rafał Zahorski from Magemar Polska company which specialises in marine transport of stone.
- So far mediation in stone industry is just legitimisation of pathologies and giving ground to a customer who knew from the very beginning he was going to cheat us. Our business development level is not high enough and the state does not protect companies against this glaring unfairness. I am a fan of mediation, but it is possible only when two parties of the conflict want it.  

The criteria of reliability and stability of companies are financial liquidity, level of indebtedness and level of registered overdue payments. In November 2014 over 5,200 construction companies owed their counterparties over 292 million zlotys (more than 75 million euros) in total. Compared to the same period in 2013, the debt increased by nearly 25%. Well, in Poland just 30% of invoices are paid on time. Nearly 11% of invoices are more than 90 days overdue including those which are more than 121 days overdue. Estimated, average value of overdue payments per company is nearly 70,000 zlotys (ca. 17,000 euros), whereas more than a half of SMEs (54%) have overdue payments worth more than 50,000 zlotys (12,000 euros).

After five years of recession construction branch is recovering, but moods are still moderate. We should not be surprised because most companies which have problems with enforcing payments say that, according to them, their counterparties should pay on time because they have enough money (61% of companies think so).  

- The worst thing is that even public procurements do not guarantee that money will be paid on time. I remember talking to councillors from Legnica two and a half years ago. We were talking about stone works which we valued at 400,000 zlotys (ca. 100,000 euros). They agreed. There was only one condition in the agreement. We had to start our work immediately. I quit this, but I know that other subcontractors swallowed this bait. They are still getting their money in instalments – says Mateusz Ciemny, a stonemason from Głogów.

- Since that time I've been avoiding big projects. It is much easier to get along with a private investor. Stone is a natural product so I can't guarantee its repeatability (and I can't demand it, either). I can't just go to a wholesale and say: “A green stone, please”. We should learn how to value costs of our work. This is a craft and the fact that we can use CNC machines these days doesn't matter. We need to value ourselves highly and ignore the temptation to lower the price because it spoils the market, demotivates stonemasons and lowers the value of our craft.  

mediations 3.jpgAre agreements with stonemasons the worst possible for construction companies? One thing is certain: you need to have a sharp eye for business. Those who suffered from bankruptcies of contractor companies during Euro 2012 know about it very well. What is worse,  bankruptcy risk of construction companies is still at a very high level – in spite of their recovery and higher profitability in the last quarters, the number of bankruptcies is still very high. We need to add that nearly 60% of developers' debts are liabilities towards construction companies.     

- I'm really annoyed that when I do big contracts I need to issue a delivery note and sign an agreement in which the ordering party has a right to do everything and I have just duties and penalties (in order not to be associated with dictatorship, they are called contractual penalties). A medieval scribe seems a good person to analyse such tricky provisions – says Jacek Kiszkiel, a stonemason from Strzegom.  

- Once I had to return my trucks with stone for building express roads to my company. The ordering party always paid on time, but one day my employee told me that this company had just gone bankrupt. I had to do my best not to lose 300,000 zlotys (ca. 75,000 euros).

What is worse, nobody draws any conclusions from the failure of road and railway program. Agreements are still favourable only to ordering parties. The market is dominated by ordering parties who impose prices and conditions, set up rules which contribute to the market imbalance. The relation between ordering party and contractor is not based on cooperation and understanding but on supervision and stringent agreements controlled by lawyers hired by big companies.

- I learnt a lesson and now I'm doing business only with the companies run by presidents I know in person  (or at least I know a member of the board of this company). I'm not interested in other enquiries – reveals Wiesław A. Kisielewski, a stonemason from Białystok.

- I can see the following dependance. The shorter the time for getting familiar with agreement provisions, the bigger the risk that we met a cheat (there are more and more of them!). If a trusted (so far) customer moves his company nearer the capital city, there is a bigger chance that he will be tempted to cheat someone. We may hope that mediations will change the low business culture in Poland. So far subcontractors are treated like workers who should be happy that they found a work to do. What about payments? Issue the invoice, we'll see what we can do… - the same old song and dance given by big players.

Luckily, according to the National Registry of Debts, there are more and more Polish companies which have no problem with getting their money back from foreign counterparties. The study showed that in Poland not only big companies are focused on export. According to the survey carried out on 7,000 micro and small entrepreneurs by Pekao Bank, 33% of small companies engage in export whilst in 2013 it was 24%. An increase was also recorded among micro companies (the number of exporters rose in 2014 to 12 per cent, compared to 7 per cent in the previous year).  

And now a curiosity. Mediation appears to be successful when used by parties that have completely nothing in common: starting from different country they come from through different skin colour, religion and finally business culture...

- In the RSA, for example, where our family stone pits operate, a mediator is treated like a silent partner. There, possibly because of mixture of various cultures, business is much more open to new things. Polish stone industry is rather closed and does not seem good for mediators. Well, 90% of all stonemasons in Poland are people in their 50s who are not keen on any changes. Mistrust prevails, I'm afraid – concludes Jacek Kiszkiel.   

Rafał Dobrowolski

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