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This article explores the involvement of Polish trade unions in social dialogue and workplace governance with a view to economic reform. Set against the background of modern theories of conflict and cooperation, and of social and political capital, it takes as its premise that Poland needs comprehensive structural change. For this to happen, however, an Irish-style social pact is called for. Hence the study shows among other things the impact of trade union politicisation and the climate of confrontation and polarisation, and why Polish social partners have difficulty building a consensus and cooperating to produce benefits for the entire society. It argues that, on the one hand, trade unions – being able to accelerate or frustrate reform – have a big role to play and, on the other, that it is critical to improve the quality of social dialogue and workplace governance. Drawing on a short study from the mining industry, the article demonstrates that consensus and cooperation, rather than confrontation and intransigence, produce win–win outcomes. Building on these arguments, the article concludes by making some recommendations on how to enhance social dialogue and ameliorate workplace governance.