On March 3, an action was held at Polomarket heaquarters in Giebnia, to discuss the demands of former and present workers at the market who have organized to improve working conditions and rectify the situation of several former employees.
A few weeks ago, workers presented a long list of problems in the supermarket chain, including problems with working hours (having to work on days off, unpaid overtime, incorrect documentation, forcing people with disabilities to work more hours than they should, problems with taking guaranteed breaks and several health and safety issues). A work inspection confirmed most of the important claims. Despite the fact that we possess the protocols and quoted them several times, Polomarket keeps claiming in the media that the inspectors DIDN'T find any problems, which is not true. In addition, they have made various threats related to this and have initiated a lawsuit against R., one of the workers concerned.
Upon announcing that the workers would take action, a series of pickets was held in Bydgoszcz, where the problems occured, in the middle of February. The protests met with various attempts at intimidating workers, who were warned not to talk to us, etc. The company complained to Facebook about the event we posted about the protests and it was removed. The protests were invigilated by a number of spies who followed the workers to different actions, menacing and filming them. Journalists were warned against taking photos that clearly show the name of the supermarket and its logo. It seems that Polomarket has chosen to deal with these problems by denial and harrassment instead of dialogue with the workers. Despite all that they did to try and frighten the workers, they publically claimed that „nobody contacted them” and they were waiting for a chance to negotiate with the workers.
It is true that they wanted to talk to one worker, who claims she was unfairly dismissed without cause and has claims against the company. However, when she said she wanted to go to the talks with others from the union, nobody was available. A representative of the union informed the company that we would come anyway.
Although Polomarket kept saying, even the day before, that it „wanted to talk with the workers”, when the workers arrived, the security tried (unsuccessfully) to keep them out of the building. Despite efforts to discourage this meeting, the disturbance in the headquarters interrupted the meeting of the Board of Directors and one of the Directors, the famous Mr. Sowa, met to discuss the situation. (The Sowa family is very rich and owns a number of businesses.) Workers presented a list of demands which included payment for overtime for a number of workers, guaranteed breaks as set out in the labor code, adherence to the provisions of the labor code in the case of workers with disabilities, adherence to health and safety provisions, including providing the appropriate training for different positions, taking action against managers who harrassed workers, implemented the points highlighted by the work inspections and reinstating J. to work. We also demand that they drop the retaliatory lawsuit against R.
Nothing was agreed with the director, who has to „check” and consult things and promised to get back to us in a few days. In the meanwhile, if the chain does not take concrete measures and efforts to rectify the situation, the union plans an escalation of the actions.
Polomarket is one of the largest Polish chains, with almost 8000 employees. However, there could be more indirect workers. Sometimes the employment relation is not clear, because of the number of separate business entities which are involved. For example, a few years ago, workers at the logistic center protested and these people had been working as „self-employed entrepeneurs” through another company.
ZSP plans to continue pressing for improved conditions at Polomarket and to increase organizing efforts. It also is taking measures to defend all workers repressed for their activities by the company.