The ZSP continues to act in the Tenants Defense Committee (and Tenants Action in Wroclaw) against the attacks on the the ill, retired and unemployed and the low-earning working class who live in public housing, carried out by those who want to commercialize housing, privatize it and gentrify neighbourhoods.
The last few months saw and increase in activity has corruption scandals rocked the country. The Committee has been exposing the criminal actions of a privatization mafia which involves public officials, lawyers, real estate speculators, prosecutors and judges for years. However, politicians denied these facts and for years tried to portray this all as the rantings of radicals. However, the media finally published irrefutable proof supporting our claims and the privatization mafia has become well-established in the public record (despite the fact that many of those involved have slipped through the cracks and have managed to keep their positions).
Members of ZSP would like to briefly reply to the smear campaign waged by a marginal anarchist zine entitled „Amor y Rabia” and the magazine "Prisma" published by the Amor y Rabia group from Valladolid.* Outrageously, Amor y Rabia usurps the right to write about matters claiming to express the „perception of the CNT”, without being any mandated organ of that Federation. The article being spread (among other places on the ALB forum in Spain) is an attack on the IWA, but in particular, contains lies, aimed against the workers of our Federation and our region.
The manipulative „Amor y Rabia” labels our Federation (ZSP) a „miniscule organization” claiming we are many times fewer than we are in reality. In fact, this media de manipulation singles out the unions of Eastern Europe as examples of „pseudounions”, each time lowering their actual membership to support their narrative. Other member Sections of the IWA are not singled out or criticized, despite the fact that they are all smaller than we. Not that we care to be dragged into such stupid games and compare ourselves to others, but it is clear that the false information is aimed at particularly our union and comrades from Eastern Europe. In our opinion, this shows an intense prejudice towards workers from our region, one unfortunately displayed on more than one occasion. That such prejudices appear in such a manner is a clear assault to the principles of internationalism and mimic the tactics of nationalists and labor protectionists.
Members of ZSP and the Union of Psychiatric and Addiction Workers at the SPZOZ Hospital in Bielsko-Biala have called off a planned strike after receiving a 200 zl. (45 euro) a month raise. However, the workers still are in conflict with the hospital and do not exclude the possibility of strike action next year.
Workers have been demanding a higher wage increase, even if this increase should be introduced in stages. Moreover, only part of their other postulates were fulfilled. The hospital received 21 demands in total, most having to do with health and safety of the workers and patients in the facility.
Comrades have also complained about the methods of dealing with the workers on the part of the hospital administration. Partially they feel that the director of the hospital is trying to divide workers by treating different professions separately. The strategy of our union has always been to unite all professions in the same workplace whereas almost all health care unions in Poland are divided by profession.
Recently, ZSP, our comrades in Holland from Vrije Bond and comrades from Priama akcia in Slovakia are receiving more and more information about new problems with the work agency OTTO Workforce. Often this has to do with not being provided with enough work (or work at all) after arriving in Holland.
These problems no longer concern primarily workers from Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also now from Spain, as the agency is also targetted unemployed and desperate workers from that country. Workers from Spain, who were recruited through "Temporales" - a fly-by-night agency in Madrid - wound up employed in Holland by OTTO. Although they were promised a certain number of hours per week and assumed they would be earning something, the actual contracts provided no guaranteed hours. However, they oblige workers to pay for lodging and health insurance - regardless of whether or not they are given any work.
Some workers decided to take action after falling into debt with OTTO. We are calling on OTTO to cancel the debts of the workers who were promised work, but not given it by the agency. Some of these people literally had no money for food and had to borrow money to return home. We are also calling on the agency not to charge workers for housing in such circumstances that they fail to provide work and to incorporate guaranteed hours into their contracts.
The unions which have previously taken action against exploitation at OTTO, plus comrades from CNT-AIT in Spain, will soon start an international campaign aimed at warning workers and changing the practices of the agency.
We are happy to inform that workers from MarcPol Supermarkets who blockaded the supermarket in downtown Warsaw in August have finally received some money. The supermarket chain, which claimed it was bankrupt and hadn't paid workers, was still doing business and selling off assets to other companies with ties to it. Hundreds of workers were left without salaries for a couple of months.
However the workers have not received all the money they were owed and haven't received any compensation for vacation equivalent. Therefore the conflict remains against the former owner, who still runs active business interests.
There also remains a huge problem of workers whose companies go into bankruptcy as a business strategy. Often they are selling and transferring assets and stop paying workers for months before shutting down. This activity, which is literally criminal, usually goes with no consequences for the owners, which has encouraged the spread of these practices. After MarcPol, the Alma chain has also left workers high and dry and there is news that other chains may follow.
Supermarket Workers in ZSP have successfully fought against unpaid overtime and other violations in Dino supermarkets. Starting next year, the union will campaign against the practice of shady bankruptcies in this sector and others.
The ZSP-IWA has been taking part in protests against the possible introduction of draconian anti-abortion laws. These laws would mean a total ban on abortion, even in cases where the baby would be stillborn or the mother could die, in cases where the woman was a child, the victim of rape or incest. It would criminalize not only abortion since miscarriages would be viewed as suspect, require an investigation and also a possible prison sentence. Birth control would also come under fire.
The proposals were made through a citizen's bill, which hundreds of thousands of people supported. An opposing bill was also sent to Parliament which would liberalize abortion rights. However, there was not enough support for it and it was thrown out. Despite the fact that some politicians are trying to make political capital on opposing the total ban, there are few that support more liberal laws. There is some division though in the ruling party and they plan to work on a less drastic tightening of the laws which would still allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or serious threat to a woman's health, but not in cases where a baby would have serious birth defects or might be born dead.
In response to this situation, many protests have been held in Poland. Most attracted large crowds for local conditions. Another idea was to call for a women's strike. Like the lmmigrant's Strike in UK, this was an idea rather pushed by the media and not the result of any action of labour organizations. Unlike the completely failed idea in the UK, this idea has gathered some support and it is likely that some workplaces will be shut down, at least for part of the day.
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.