The X Congress of ZSP took place in Krakow on May 2-3, 2016. The Congress focused on matters of our union activity and development, as well as some international issues. It was followed by an open meeting to present our activities and tactics.
A new section from Opole was admitted at the Congress. Reports were given about groups of workers we are currently cooperating with and/or speaking to and which ones potentially could join our organization. Another part of the Congress dealt with updates on current conflicts comrades are involved in. Almost all of the affiliate organizations of ZSP are currently carrying out conflicts in a number of workplaces and all of the delegates were actively involved in at least a couple of them. The Congress showed that the organization is most active on the level of workplace conflicts and that there are lots of groups of workers interested in concrete cooperation.
Workers are organizing at Zle Mięso vegan restaurant in Wroclaw to take action and fight for their rights. This restaurant, which markets itself as alternative offers no real alternative for workers. Some work under the table with no work record, social insurance or benefits; others who got a contract were given two different contracts - one for the worker, a different one for the owner, in order to cheat on social security payments. According to workers, when they asked for explanations, they were threatened. Workers also claim this pseudo-leftist boss warned about his "connections" (ie, dad who is a politician). After this, some workers quit but intend to fight for what they are owed and demand better working conditions in this restaurant.
We won't eat where working conditions stink and comrades have informed the vegan and activist community of what is happening in this restaurant.
The ZSP Multibranch Union is fighting back against contract abuse and underpayments at the Praski Hospital in Warsaw. Porters at the hospital were paid below the minimum wage and were given too many temporary contracts to sign - by law they should have been offered permanent contracts. Now the hospital has also contracted an outside company for some services and the porters are afraid for their jobs. Our colleague is demanding 3000 zloty in back pay to start and calls on all workers to organize against this practices.
We note that the Chairman of the Board of the hospital is A. Golimont, city councilperson from the supposedly social democratic SLD and it is his signature on the contracts. So we demand that he not only follow the law and provide the minimum, at least, but do more about the working conditions in the hospital. ln turn, we condemn the policies of the government that underfund health care and all those that turn a blind eye on exploitation in the public sector.
In Wroclaw ZSP managed to win a conflict in a local pre-school where the owner did not make social security payments. The situation went back to 2013, although the worker in question did not find out about the non-payments until 2015. After the intervention of ZSP, the problem was solved. The local ZSP encourages all workers to fight for their rights and stresses that workers will bear the consequences of working without all these payments, so it is better to fight.
A group of postal workers, including postal workers in ZSP, have sent a list of demands to the Post Office and threaten to go on strike if these demands are not met. Here is the list:
We, workers of the Polish Post demand:
- a raise of basic salary by 700 zl. brutto;
- an increase of internal staff and postal carriers;
- reorganization of the regions, creating new regions in order to lessen the burden on the carriers
- an end to mobbing;
- limiting what carriers are expected to sell to only postal products (stamps, envelopes, cards). An end to forcing them to sell financial services of the Postal Bank, insurance or items not connected to the post office.;
- lowering the threshhold to get a bonus which are currently impossible to reach;
- that mail delivers not be forced to carry junk mail or to read gas meters ;
- that a 40 hour work week be observed;
- that pay gaps be eliminated;
- We also demand that an outside firm conduct research, twice for one month. The first term will be determined by the postal workers, the second by the board of the post office. Then, after consultation with the postal workers, they should calculate the time it takes to make delivervies of different kinds.
If you don't meet our demands, the result will be a strike!
ZSP has been campaigning against subminimum wages and for guarantees linked to public tenders for the last couple of years. The government seems to have agreed to some of our postulates and has now announced measures that would affect at least 1.5 million workers on subminimum wages.
Some workers' organizations, for the sake of self-promotion, would loudly celebrate a victory. But our experience has shown that government reform is not always what it says it is. We ask if this is a resounding victory or just the first baby steps, frought with loopholes?
Over the past few years, we have made many actions which have involved companies using subminimum wages and/or providing services to public entities. A large part of our membership falls into this category of worker, which is unique for unions in Poland. To explain the issue, Polish law gives too much leeway for companies to hire workers on civil contracts instead of employment contracts, which offer more protection and benefits. Scandalously, the minimum wage law applies only to workers on employment contracts; some people, many of whom should have employment contracts, have civil contracts only to avoid benefits and minimum wage law. There are people in Poland earning less than 1 euro an hour. Some of these people are working for public entities, through service providers. In the past, such people might have been hired directly by the place they actually work and had work contracts; now they are technically hired by somebody else and don't necessarily have contracts. Such is the position of most cleaners and „security guards” (some of whom are actually used as receptionists) in places like public hospitals or municipal offices.
Employees of temporary work agencies are often subject to various problems at work. Workers in several agencies have organized with ZSP, which has been unique amongst unions from Poland in defending their rights, both in Poland and in other countries.
Recently a painter in Holland decided to take action because he considered his salary to be lower than the collective agreement and that the wrong agreement was applied. The difference was 2.62 euros per hour. After meetings with OTTO Workforce, his salary was raised by almost 3 euros and he was paid almost 900 euros back pay to cover the difference.
This case shows that thanks to organization and continuing campaigns, workers can enforce their rights and achieve demands. Being active and solidary brings results. That's why it's worth joining us. ZSP is a different type of union. We join workers regardless of whether they work in an agency or on a civil contract and we know we can fight even in work agencies, where the workforce is disperse.
The situation of agency workers is difficult and those who go abroad can find themselves in a tough situation but more than once we have shown that workers who fight can successly solve problems and improve their conditions.
Without union bosses and bureaucrats.
The workers of the psychiatric hospital in Bielsko-Biała have two demands regarding pay and 19 concerning working conditions. The demands concern raises and problems with health and safety. If the demands are not met, the staff wants to go on strike.
The demands are sent by the Union of Psychiatic and Addiction Workers, called by the ZSP, which is the only union working in the hospital. On February 15, there was a meeting of the union with the director of the hospital, Lucyna Łagowska. The meeting ended with the signing of a protocol of disagreement. None of the 21 postulates were accepted.
We asked Grzegorz and Agnieszka to comment.
- A raise of basic salary by 500 zloties net, or 612 zloties gross starting from 30.11.2015. The raise should be for all - nurses, orderlies, psychologists, social workers, therapists, addiction specialists. secretaries and intake and service workers.
The postulates of the workers from 2007-2011 were never implemented. There have been no raises since 2011. The unionists pointed out that the last raises did not cover all workers equally. Another collective dispute started in November 2015.
- An extra payment for nurses and orderlies working on the ground floor because of their especially difficult work and dangerous conditions and 24 hour work - 300 zł net.
This is a difficult job in the hospital. They work 24 hours (on days off, Sundays and holidays), all year round. All categories of patients with various disturbaces work there. More and more people who used drugs are brought in an extremely agressive state. This is often the same with people under the influence of alcohol. .
POSTULATES ABOUT WORKlNG CONDlTlONS
- The creation of a cloak room in accordance with the Order of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of September 26 1997.
The hospital does not fulfill this order which was put to comply with sanitary norms. Postulat ten wynika z niespełnienia przez pracodawcę warunków określonych w w/w rozporządzeniu.
- The creation of a workers room in the rehabilitation ward where they can eat meals and spend breaks.
- Equipping the therapy room in accordance with norms. There are groups of about 20 patients for rehabilitation but the room does not accomodate them all. There needs to be a discussion on the conditions in which the patients get physical therapy and on the working conditions of the therapists. Therapists are required to do things that they cannot do adequately because of lack of conditions. This is both because the work in not properly organized and the rooms do not meet norms.
- Reorganization of the rooms so that they meet standards.
The rooms are too small for the number of beds, sometimes you cannot get to the patients, which effects the ability to get to them quickly if they need medical help. This is crucial if ones life is in danger. There are often situations where it is difficult to wheel the bed of a patient out of the room without a lot of moving and taking apart things.
- The room in rehabilitation should have chairs and furniture which can be washed. This is a sanitary norm that the furniture can equipment must be able to wash and disinfect easily.
- Guaranteeing material for physical therapy with the patients. This has been ignored for years. Often therapists have to bring their private material.
- Checking the electric, ventillation, gas and fire prevention installations in accordance with the building law and energy law. This hasn't been checked in years and the workers and patients are worried about their safety. Especially as there are often electric failures. In additon, the health and safety inspector recommended the installation of a new fire prevention system years ago, but it was never installed.
- Changing damaged and unsafe heaters.
- Putting a sink in the workers' room. This is a sanitary norm.
- Setting up a place for patients to smoke so that they do not have unlimited rights to smoke wherever they want and harm the health of non-smoking patients and personnel. Of course this can be discussed and we do not appeal to ban smoking entirely, but to eliminate the negative impact on non-smokers. We have a concrete proposal about a smokers' lounge.
- Hiring somebody to cook meals, give them to patients and clean at the facility for minors. Currently nurses or psychologists do this, even though it is not their work.
- Hiring more medical secretaries. The secretary at intake in the addictions unit works only until 3PM but it is open 7:30 – 20:00. So if anybody calls or comes after 3PM, they expect therapists, who are supposed to be doing therapy, to do this work.
All this shows that they do not guarantee good working conditions at the hospital and also that the patients are not treated correctly.
[Compiled by Andrzej Finster – ZSP-PSZ and shortened in English version.]
Workers first started to take action in response to problems at OTTO Workforce in 2011 and since that time, ZSP has been dealing with the issues in the agency on and off. OTTO is a work agency that, among other things, recruits people from Poland and Slovakia to work in Holland. At first there was an enormous list of complaints against the agency, ranging from docking salary, to not providing the hours or work promised. Many workers had not received what was owed to them. The workers took action and ZSP, Priama akcia and Vrije Bond organized a campaign to resolve the problems at the agency.
Compiling a list of the most common problems and accompanying workers to speak to the bosses organizing pickets of their offices and events, the agency did settle outstanding payments and resolve some of the important issues. Demands included fulfilling all contractual obligations, stopping the use of illegal regulations, arbitrary deductions, forcing the workers to live in OTTO's housing (which was more expensive than others). The workers also wanted some other things which were in accordance with Dutch law such as transport to work, equivalent for vacaton pay and sick leave.
A former employee of "Herbaty Szlachetne" and the adminstrator of the Facebook group „Szczecin- Work – Where it's worth working (and not) are accused of art. 212 of the criminal code, „criminal slander using mass media”. The case is about a post on Facebook and the Gowork portal (already gone) about the violations of the labor code and health and safety regulations and not paying workers overtime.
Since we unfortunately have experience with this kind of case due to our years of work in defense of workers' rights, against the abuses of companies, one of the accused has asked us for support and advice, which we gladly offer.