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.
Today, after many months fighting a criminal case brought by BRW Sofa, everything ended positively for our comrade. We are satisfied that the company did not manage to criminalize members of our union for our support of another comrade, fired by the company after exposing some violations at the factory.
ln Poland, like in some other countries, unionists are faced with an unsupportive system. When workers start to fight back and denounce poor working conditions, they are often repressed by dismissal and lawsuits. Bosses cite "slander", "revealing company secrets" or the very broadly interpreted "acting to the detriment of the company" in their suits against workers who have exposed various problems or speak about them in the course of a conflict. While such repression is commonplace, it is rare for any company to go so far as to seek criminal prosecution. And this for standing up for another unionist and publicizing the story.
The case represented a serious turn in labour relations, an attempt to criminalize our activism and strike fear into workers around the country.
We will not keep quiet about what is going on. Hundreds of thousands of workers each year are cheated by bosses, forced to work on trash contracts instead of normal ones which they are entitled to. Many more work in unsafe conditions or are overworked, beyond their strength. We will not turn a blind eye to this and pretend it is all right - even if it means we have to fight with situations like this.
The Multibranch Union in Warsaw congratulates our comrade on the positive outcome of the case. We would also like to thank all comrades who have gone to the court or otherwise shown their support.
A group of workers who repaired public housing units and real estate owned by the Justice Ministry are organizing and fighting to get paid. The housing authority in the district of Wola in Warsaw held a public tender for the works, which was won by a small firm, which had carried out various construction and repair works in the past. The workers, who never got a written contract, were also not paid. Some of them wound up at a homeless shelter, completely broke. (Others had come from Ukraine to work and nobody knows what happened to them.) Now they joined ZSP and are fighting for their pay and for changes that will help avoid such situations in the future.
The union has been campaigning to put an end to such practices in public works. Our postulates include the direct hiring of workers on normal contracts where possible and checking the working conditions when using contractors. These ideas gained a lot of public support and the government made some steps in this direction by ammending the law on public procurement by allowing public entities to put a „social clause” in public tenders, demanding that workers have proper contracts. However, these clauses are not required and public entities can use them at their discretion.
On September 10, over 11,000 nurses and midwives marched in Warsaw in a nationwide protest called by the OZZPiP union of nurses and midwives. The union has been negotiating pay rises with the Ministry of Health.
Over the last 15 years, nurses have been trying to get satifactory wage increases, to little avail. Many nurses earn in the range of 600 euros gross per month and the profession is now severely understaffed as women go abroad to work and few young people enter the profession. Wage increases in the past years have mostly gone to doctors and hospital administrators.
The nurses had been threatening a strike, but it has not come to fruition. However, since negotiations keep coming up short, there is now nationwide strike preparation. The nurses are demanding an increase of about 350 euros per month, to be phased in over three years.
Situation highlights pathology and indifference towards workers in Poland
ZSP demands payments and real solutions for workers suffering from wage theft
A group of workers from Atlantic and subsidiary VIS Retail are fighting to get paid from bosses who closed up shop and disappeared. Atlantic is a well-known producer of underwear. It had over 200 shops and was a market leader in several E. European countries. In recent months, the company stopped paying workers, shops were closed down and people were out of a job without giving any notice. The owners of the concern disappeared, nobody answered emails or phone calls.
After being contacted by a worker who wanted to take action, we found a several dozens more people. Their stories paint a sad picture of what it is like for unorganized workers whose bosses don't pay. Many had approached institutions such as the State Labour Inspectorate for help. But it does nothing in these situations and could not even offer advice as to what to do. As we know, the only thing which can be done is to organize and take action.
After finding out that Atlantic was filing for bankruptcy, ZSP organized a protest at the court and confronted Wojciech Morawski, founder, former owner and Chairman of the Board of Atlantic and Bartosz Bielski, (former?) Chairman of the Board of VIS Retail. Workers demanded their money but only heard excuses from the bosses, who retorted that workers can just email them or that there was „no money”.
Związek Syndykalistów Polski is pleased that Amazon has given workers a well-deserved raise and that the firm has finally raised the salaries of workers in Bielany Wroclawskie to the same level as Sady, ending the pay discrimination. We remind that this was one of our postulates to Amazon at the end of last year.
However, we would still like to point out that the salaries are not very good. In particular, workers in Poland still earn over 3 times less than in Germany for exactly the same job.
All of the unions in Amazon consider that the wages should still be raised.
Moreover, there are still outstanding problems that we have been fighting with since the beginning of December, such as late payments, incorrect payments, failure to report accidents, etc. etc.
We consider this small raise a small step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. We call on workers to join with us to help fight for improved working conditions and dignity for all workers.
The State Labour Inspectorate has fined Amazon and Adecco work agency for numerous violations at the Bielany Wroclawskie fulfillment center near Wroclaw. However the fines imposed by the Inspectorate are not an effective deterrant – 3 fines of 2000 zloties between the 2 entities, which is less than 1500 euros. Workers need to fight themselves, not through the ineffective intermediaries of the state.
The controls only confirmed what workers have been saying all along: that there are problems with late payments, overtime payments, with sick leave payments and with the company not declaring some accidents at work. There were also problems with payments for equivalents for work clothes. All these are problems which the ZSP has been dealing with since December 2014.
There were also some problems with health and safety, including violations concerning safety instructions and employing people at heights.
As Amazon has started to recruit a few thousand more workers, the ZSP will be stepping up its work in informing new employees about their rights and encouraging them to organize in the union.
We also point out that the control did not include the Manpower agency since Manpower is out of Amazon. However, the corporation has, for whatever reason, decided to re-engage this agency in the new recruitment process. Therefore we will be focusing on Manpower during this time. There are still a couple of outstanding problems with Manpower which we hope to resolve. In the meanwhile, we will encourage their future employees to be aware of potential problems with a new series of articles and brochures.
Support the 7 nurses in Wyszkow hospital who were repressed for union activity! On June 15 the nurses from the Union of Anesthesiological Nurses won't go to work, for a number of reasons. They are demanding the reinstatement of the dismissed unionists, the elimination of health and safety risks, money which they were underpaid and an increase in salary.
The nurses, part of an independent union at the hospital, were fired before the weekend for planning a strike. The hospital administration wrote up disciplinary dismissals for the women who have been working there for 30-40 years! It also has been hanging notices around the hospital claiming that the strike would be illegal and threatening to fire anybody who takes part.
If you would like to support the nurses against this repression, you can send an email or fax to the hospital. See below.