On May 28, members of the ZSP picketed at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. The reason for this was related to the actions of its director, Pawel Spiewak, concerning employees at the Institute and his more recent actions against our comrade from the ZSP.
Two years ago some incidents occured at the Institute which could be described as retribution, discrimination and harrassment of unionists. At least that's how some workers saw it and a court decided in their favour. For example, a quite famous researcher and former KOR activist (Alina Cala) formed a trade union and was then moved to the archives to scan documents … which is a job for students. The same researcher had earlier received a dismissal notice with the reason given because of the union, but the director realized this is easily proven discrimination, so instead the notice was withdrawn and she was moved to this job which was well below her previous one. In total, six workers were banished to the archives – all of them were in the founding group of the union. A couple of them quit, a couple of them took Director Spiewak to court and won.
We could say a lot more about this case and the atmosphere created at work by Mr. Spiewak. But we will leave this for now, because Mr. Spiewak is watching us! Anything we say can be will be held against us! Two years after the fact, Spiewak has decided to sue the owner of our internet domain name because there was information about this anti-unionist harrassment on our webpages.
We are not the only ones who reported this situation, but I guess it really hurt Mr. Director to see that some people, including workers from the Institute, will not stay quiet about bosses who do such crappy things. People certainly had a different idea about who should be banished to the basement scanning dusty documents day in and day out. Unfortunately, despite the outcome of the court case, which showed how unfair the Director had acted, he is still in his position at the Institute.
On May 16, during the „Museum Night” annual event, ZSP union picketed at the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw. The action brought together two campaigns – against the use of outsourcing, trash contracts and the subminimum wage at public institutions and an organizing campaign in the Ekotrade agency. Ekotrade is known for its use of trash contracts and low wages and is used by the Science Center.
Hundreds and hundreds of people were at the event. We spoke to people about the situation and handed out leaflets. The Center got very nervous and called the police, who were intent on stopping the action. Security and some event organizers tried to intervene claiming that we were not allowed to hand out leaflets on the sidewalk, which we ignored and made people more interested in what was happening. Despite the harrassment, a few hundred leaflets were given out.
The ZSP has been campaigning for the past year against the use of trash contracts and the subminimum wage in public institutions. We fought successfully with the Impuls agency and many of their contracts were terminated. Our postulate is that public institutions either hire people directly or, if they do use outside companies, that the entity making a public tender should make workers' rights a requirement. Only firms which give proper contracts and pay at least the minimum wage should be used. These postulates have been gaining support.
Despite the fact that the ZSP's postulates would be a good solution and even has some political support, some members of government pretend that such provisions cannot be put in a public tender. This is not true and a few days ago we saw the first example of how this could be applied in practice. ZTM, which runs public bus transport in Warsaw, holds tenders for various bus routes. It has now announced that workers' rights must be respected and it will put several conditions in the tender. One of them requires the bus companies to give the drivers work contracts.
The local ZSP welcomes the initiative of the ZTM, which should be an example for other institutions. When justifying their decisions to make these requirements, they recalled the wildcat strike of 32 Ukrainian bus drivers in 2008. It was ZSP which had contacted them about their working conditions, documented the problems, publicized the case and helped the drivers get their payment.
It has taken years for any action to be taken against the companies which the city uses and which exploit their workers. We are hoping that by focusing more public attention of the concrete cases of abuse that something will begin to shift. We also invite the agency workers to join us and organize!
Leaflet in English below.
International Nurses' Day in 2015 was above all a wave of protests and warning strikes which took place in many cities in Poland. Many of them was organized by the OZZPiP (Union of Nurses and Midwives). In some places unions protested with the support of regional chambers of nurses and midwices. In the Silesian Voivodship, strikes took place in at least 9 hospitals: in Bielsko-Biała, Czeladź, Jastrzębie Zdrój, Katowice, Knurowie, Racibórz and Wodzisław Śląski.
In Bielsko-Biała about 100 people took part all together in the protests organized by the Union of Psychiatric and Rehab Workers (ZZPLPiU) and the ZSP-Health Care Workers union (ZSP-PSZ). What is important is that the postulates concerned all workers employed in health care. Workers from the OZZPiP from Bielsko Biała and Zywiec region joined in.
In Małopolska the OZZPiP organized a demonstration with over 200 people on the main market square in Krakow, which was supported by other unions in the branch. Solidarity from Wadowice and a delegation of doctors from ZSP-Health Care Workers union also took part.
On May 12, workers from a number of hospitals in Poland went on strike to protest the tragic situation of health care workers. Mostly this was an action of nurses unionized in the OZZPiP and was made to coincide with International Nurses' Day, but the ZSP Health Care Workers Union also took part in the strike, as did the Union of Psychiatric and Rehab Workers in the city of Bielsko-Biała. 30 workers went on strike in the psychiatric hospital, hanging a red and black flag on the hospital. They are demanding a 400 zloty raise (about 100 euros). Currently, many of the workers make around 450 euros a month, gross. Some earn a little more, depending on their profession.
Organized labor in the health care services is usually divided into profession. Therefore the nurses and midwives have their own union and when they protest, they are only protesting about their condition. Other professions usually do not support the protests. Our union is the only one we know which is not like this. Different workers participated in the strike: cleaners, orderlies, physical therapists, nurses and even a psychiatrist.
During the day, part of the striking workers went to the Starosta office. These politicians are responsible for overseeing the hospitals in the city. They were joined by nurses and midwives from OZZPiP from the Voivodship Hospital that also went on strike.
The struggle of the ZSP union in Amazon for decent working conditions continues. After winning payments for scheduled work time which wasn't paid and other non-payments for many agency workers and after the Manpower agency, which refused to pay was removed from Amazon, it is now time for new issues.
Workers from ZSP in Amazon demand decent wages and do not accept the new, raised productivity norms. Despite the promises of the management, the hourly rate has not been raised and is still 13 zloties brutto in Sady. The unionists from ZSP demand that this be raised to 16 zloties brutto – according to the promises. And the same rates should apply in both the warehouses.
ZSP Amazon also is against the raising of norms. For example, the norms in Pack were dramatically raised for single packages (from 130 per hour to 200 per hour), multi (from 100 per hour to 180 per hour) i large (from 80 per hour to 90). These unrealistic norms are unacceptable! We are not drones! We demand to be treated like humans!
Another postulate which was already promised by the management – but also without implementation - is allowing the workers to get a discount on things bought at the workplace, for example, in the canteen.
Workers at the Special Psychiatric Health Care Center in Bielsko-Biala are forced to go on strike due to the worsening of their finanical situation. We have enough of the Director and the politicians saying their is no money. We have enough of the terrible staffing policy which leads to an overgrown administration. We have enough pretending that the hospital is doing well!
The motor of this protest is the Union of Psychiatric and Rehab Workers, called on the initiatve of ZSP Health Care Workers.
The strikers will not worker for 2 hours (between 9.00 and 11.00) on May 12. Then, from 11-13 there will be a protest.
On March 13, a member of ZSP was interrogated by the police in connection with protests against Citibank. The union has organized a few protests in connection with the cases of three workers who are suing the multinational for discrimination, mobbing and sexual harrassment at work.
Citibank will probably take members of ZSP to court and is trying to initiate a criminal case against them. They have asked the police to confiscate activists' computers in search of evidence. They complained to the police, among other things, that activists "defaced their logo" and wrote "Shitibank".
The union will respond to the actions of the bank. It remarks that rather than tarnishing its reputation further by harrassing union activists and trying to send them to jail, they should resolve the conflict with the workers and make sure that those accused of these actions will not cause harm to anybody else.
On February 27, ZSP organized a picket at Adecco work agency in Wroclaw regarding problems workers at the Amazon warehouse have been having. One of the concrete problems concerns a worker from Walbrzych who was employed in the Bielany Wroclawskie warehouse but who had an accident at work in December, caused by dragging heavy weights with a hand cart. Our colleague considers that Adecco did not help and has been making it difficult for him to collect any money. His contract was also terminated. Adecco also was pressuring him not to contact the media with this story.
In the case of the accident, the Adecco representative at Amazon refused to drive the worker to the hospital to have the injury checked. Later, they caused various problems for him to get sick leave pay and are blaming the problems on the worker.
We are demanding that Adecco rectify the situation and pay the 2.5 months' sick leave he is entitled to having suffered an accident at work. The local ZSP plans to increase the protests if this situation is not resolved quickly.
Workers from Amazon can tell many stories about difficulties they have resolving any problems with the company. Many of them work for agencies. If they manage to contact people with their problems, they are told that the agency has to ask Amazon, please wait...... and the waiting goes on and on. In some cases, this can be very costly for the workers.
As Amazon does not pay too much, some of their employees... oh sorry, I mean people who work in their centers... are eligible for different types of social aid or low-cost public housing. Only to apply, or to stay in public housing, from time to time one has to provide proof of their income. What they need is something signed and stamped by their employer.
In the week of January 26-31, a number of actions were held at Amazon and Manpower in solidarity with workers at Amazon Poland, some of whom are employed through the Manpower agency. The conditions are extremely tough at Amazon but also there have been a number of irregularities, like late pay or lack of payments for some elements of their salary. The ZSP union in Amazon is fighting to regulate payments and to improve the overall working conditions.
On Monday morning, the first actions of the week were held in Poland. Before Manpower opened at 8AM, workers from Amazon in Sady went to the Manpower office in Poznan. The workers employed through Manpower went up to the office while the rest protested outside, handing out leaflets. Many passersby were familiar with the bad working conditions at Amazon and expressed their support.
The group also went to the Adecco office where Adecco workers spoke about money owed to them. In contrast with Manpower, Adecco reacted quite quickly, wiring money that was owed within a couple of hours of the picket. Manpower is still consulting with its legal department.
Later in the day, our comrades from Manchester Solidarity Federation also appeared at a Manpower office with a picket. The management of the office were upset by the picket. The comrades handed out leaflets describing the situation and expressing their support of the workers who are organizing and fighting for their pay.
On Tuesday the 27, the CNT-AIT from Salamanca went to a Manpower office in their city. Unionists from Salamanca are fighting for direct employment of workers at the Orange call center who are hired through Adecco and Randstad, so we have some common issues in Spain and Poland. They spread information about the struggle and sent their solidarity to workers in Amazon.