Two workers have won their cases against Citibank in Poland. Three people had sued the company – for discrimination of a worker after paternity leave, for mobbing and for sexual harrassment. The court found in favour of the two workers who claimed discrimination and mobbing and awarded them significant compensation. In the case of the discrimination case, the victory is especially significant as there is widespread pressure at work for men not to take paternity leave – a pressure which reinforces patriarchal practices in the society and which penalizes men who might want to share parenting responsibilities.
Citibank has appealed the decision.
A third case, held separately in another city, has been dropped. Unfortunately, issues of sexual violence are not treated very well and it is often an ordeal to see such a case through to the end. However, we hope that even the starting of the case has sent a clear signal to the bank that such practices should never be tolerated.
We remind people also of the repressive response of Citibank towards activists of ZSP and other workers when exposing the situation. The bank tried to start a criminal case against members of the union, who were threatened and questioned by police. We think that the bank would be better off taking definitive measures against harrassment at their workplace; since this success, more workers have contacted us with the intent of suing the bank.
Workers blockaded a MarcPol supermarket on Friday to demand payments. Although the supermarket chain supposedly is bankrupt and owes hundreds of workers back pay, it is functioning as usual in several Warsaw locations. Current employees, both at the markets and central office have various concerns, as do workers from the markets closed down, who were left without any salary.
The action occurred on Friday late afternoon, which is the busiest time for the supermarket. Workers told about the fact that they have had difficult working conditions for years, often asked to work overtime and late on days like New Year's Eve. The low pay in such jobs means that nobody has any big savings and can afford to be a few months without a salary.
The workers say that if they don't see a resolution by the end of the month, they are going to escalate their actions.
The Priest Paweł D. admitted to committing Social Security fraud. The Press Spokesman of the Prosecutor's Office in Bielsko-Biała issued the following statement related to the conflict:
"On April 4, 2016, Paweł D. was charged with committing Social Security fraud for the period from Oct. 2, 2014 to March 15, 2016. The suspect admitted to committing this crime and expressed the desire to voluntarily face punishment under art. 335 of the Criminal Procedural Code.... "
Despite this, nobody has received any payment.
Every year, thousands of people are employed seasonally at the Polish seaside during the summer. Many of these people are students and young people who often have informal working relations, with no contracts of any sort. And every year, a certain portion of these workers are cheated - either shorted in pay, or not paid at all.
When a member of our union found out that some of her relatives were having trouble getting paid in the seaside town of Pobierowo, ZSP took action to contact the boss. We explained that if he did not pay, we would protest his establishment and we suggested he look us up. Within 15 minutes, the boss decided not to risk and paid up.
At the end of March 2016, ZSP Wroclaw started actions at a vegan restaurant in that city. Workers alarmed that there were numerous violations of workers rights: working with no contracts, working on falsified contracts, unpaid overtime, lack of Social Security payments and numerous health and safety violations.
The union approached the owner of the restaurant, who was known as a member of the "alternative scene" about these problems, but he instead acted very arrogantly and agressively. So the union started to publicize these problems and picket the restaurant. The owner harrassed the protestors, taking films of them, etc. A list of problems and demands were published.
The campaign lasted over one month, causing a lot of discussion amongst clients. Then in June, the Labour lnspectorate checked the conditions there and confirmed all of the accusations made by workers and former workers. They issued various orders and recommendations to the owner concerning hiring people on legal contracts, keeping records of working hours, paying Social Security and fixing the health and safety conditions. With these findings, any present or former workers can demand everything owed to them and the establishment of a labour relationship.
ZSP has been protesting at Anima Media and representative offices of the church over the practices of the media firm. The Media firm hired our colleague through the unemployment office and then offered her a contract. However, it decided not to make any Social Security payments. Salary payments also started to come late or not at all. The company was run a priest who previously had been accused of syphoning money from the John Paul ll Museum to this business. The business partner of the publishing house and film studio is the Bielsko-Zywiec Diocese.
After protests at Anima Media, the union went to the Diocese where they were deemed correct and promised that the payments would be regulated. However, the representative of the Diocese did not keep his word.
The union has made a number of actions in this case. First, it has set up an online protest form and has been informing of the situation. Besides the aforementioned protests, there have been some banners and posters hung on or around churches and there have been a couple of actions at church representative offices. Most recently, a banner was hung and leaflets distributed at the World Youth Day events in Krakow.
On July 10 there was an action in Krakow in solidarity with our comrade V. who was fired from EasyJet in Spain. Several people from different unions were fired at the Malaga airport, including our comrade from the CNT Valencia. EasyJet is a very profitable airline but saves on workers' salaries and benefits. The firm has been faced with strikes in several countries, including Spain where workers went on strike following the union busting repression.
Leaflets were handed out in the train to the airport in Krakow and a protest was held in the main square of the city. ZSP drew attention to the situation of EasyJet workers and in general to working conditions in different airlines.
MarcPol is the first supermarket chain in post-PRL Poland, operating since 1988, mainly in Warsaw and nearby towns. For the past few years, it has been behind on rent and sometimes payments to workers. ln April, the owner sold the majority stake to another company but 10 creditors took the company to court where in June, bankruptcy was declared. (In Poland, creditors can also declare the company bankrupt and try to recover money from liquidated assets.) But a second entity was also set up in April - Marcpol Bis. The firm was set up with a minimum of share capital.Although the first firm is "bankrupt", some supermarkets still operate under the title "Marcpol". Some of the old Marcpol supermarkets are also run by the firm Doroty Plus. The Chairman of that firm was, up until a few months ago, a member of the board of Marcpol.
In order to see how this web is tangled by a group of investors, we can point out that in April another firm, Marywilska lnvest, was set up, and its partner is BT (Bruno Tassi). Doroty Plus, which runs some of the supermarkets, is owned by the same person as Bruno Tassi.
Marcpol Bis already has been reformed as Delikatesy Stolicy. The former owner of Marcpol opened a new corporation less than 2 weeks ago.
So while assets and employees are being switched around behind closed doors, many workers have been left high and dry by Marcpol. Another group of workers are still working and should have had their contracts transferred to the new owners but were offered new contracts on less favourable conditions.
A few months ago, a conflict started against the firm „Mumciuch”, part of the JMP group. Mumciuch is an internet shop which sells maternity and children's clothes and uses pregnant women and children as models. Unfortunately, they did not pay some of them for their work. Several people contacted the union to take action.
Mumciuch is part of the JMP group, which is headquartered in a small town south of Krakow. JMP has two main lines of business: maternity clothes (with an internet shop and its own brand of clothes) and training seminars, including help in obtaining European Union funds. It also runs a foundation. The owner of the group has promoted herself as an example of female entrepeneurship. The Mumciuch shop page also had some nice words about the „social responsibility” of the firm! Unfortunately, they were not so responsible for the pregnant women who worked for them. The situation concerned more than a dozen people.
Unfortunately, some of those involved decided to take the long way – by going to court. We say the long way because one of the models took direct action and already received her money a while ago. We wish good luck to the others. In the meanwhile, we hope that nobody else will be deceived by this company.
The ZSP Multi-Branch Union in Warsaw is drawing attention to a shady practice which we uncovered being used in the Praski Hospital. The situation started when workers were afraid they would lose their jobs on permanent contracts to an external company. This hospital, like many others, did any with some workers directly employed in favor of external companies. In the case of Praski Hospital, some workers had fixed-term contracts which the hospital allowed to lapse, without offering any extension.
It came out that the hospital also was using some shady practices. Contracts were signed for less than the minimum wage but then they claimed that extra payments made for working the night shift meant that the worker actually earned the minimum wage.
This practice is currently upheld by the law, meaning that a minimum wage worker in fact can be denied in practice extra payments for overtime or night work. Various proposals have been recently made to eliminate this practice. What is interesting is that in the Tri-Partite Commission, even the employers agreed to eliminate this practice. This is because they found it is sometimes hard to get people to work the night shifts without it. Despite agreement between the main unions and the bosses, the government did not accept proposals which would end this practice.