A few members of the ZSP visited the Double Tree by Hilton hotel today in Warsaw where a large group of workers hired through an agency had not been paid. The union had been planning to take action to help the workers received what was owed to them. We went inside the hotel to hand out leaflets and check out the situation.
Less than 2 hours later we were contacted by the manager of the hotel which expressed the desire to regulate the situation and even pay the money owed tomorrow. He asked for our moderation and invited us to the hotel tomorrow to talk and inspect the working conditions.
However, we will need a little time to establish how much money is exactly owed and we do not have contact to all the workers. We also need to study the agreements. We are hoping that some of the workers will be able to get their payments ASAP.
A new Double Tree by Hilton hotel in Warsaw has left over 250 workers without any salary after a month of hard labour, exposing the highly exploitative practices of the international chain.
The workers involved were employed through and agency and were forced to work very long hours at the hotel. Typically they were made to work 12-14 hours a day, but some worked even as long as 22 hours – without a break. The cooks and waiters were on civil contracts instead of work contracts. After one month of work, the hotel refused to pay the agency.
As often happens in such cases, the hotel complained about the level of service. The workers had worked in different hotels servicing banquets, conferences, etc., without any complaints.
The workers had to buy their own clothing for work as Hilton did not provide uniforms. So the workers actually had to lay out money to work like slaves for the hotel giant.
On July 26, ZSP organized an informational action at the Palace of Culture in Warsaw to protest the situation of the workers from Impuls agency and the fact that the city awarded a contract to the firm which is known to notoriously violate workers' rights. At the end of last year, after many protests at that firm, clients, including the city started to terminate contracts with the agency after finding out that they did not pay workers on time or at all. We made a special effort to contact the municipal authorities about the situation as they also worked in municipal offices. But it seems that they are still getting contracts at publically funded institutions and places run by the city.
The workers at the Palace of Culture haven't been paid for 4 months already.
Impuls is one company that simply needs to be shut down. It has never been a problem of occasional late payments with them. Not paying workers is their modus operandi. They expect most workers not to fight and take the loss. But Impuls workers from ZSP have fought and got at least their back pay. They also are fighting for unpaid benefits.
Impuls does not pay people the legal minimum wage because they use trash contracts. This means wages about 1/3 of the minimum wage.
ZSP will be campaigning this starting this fall to make working conditions a criteria for awarding public tenders. Currently, the main criteria is price, which means that if some company wants to pay a subminimum wage, they are at an advantage in public tenders. We think that this simply cannot be supported with public money. All the more so because it supports the destruction of stable jobs in favour of paying subminimum wages (or nothing at all).
Leaflet: No Subminimum Wage
The women who have been fighting to return to work in Belchatow Hospital have won their jobs back! They will have work contracts through the new service provider.
We think this outcome shows that if you organize, stay in solidarity and don't give up, it is worth it. We consider this victory, which happened outside the mainstream unions, to be the most significant we know of so far this year in Poland. We thank everyone who supported this struggle.
We however note that there are still problems since the workers have not been compensated for lost time and have not been hired directly by the hospital.
The union in the hospital will continue working to improve conditions and fight for better job security.
In the last few days, Dino Supermarkets have sent several dismissed employees payments for overtime which they had worked in the past. This is an unusual turn in events. Dino is currently being sued for overtime payments by employees dismissed by the company.
After members of ZSP informed the State Labour Inspectorate that Dino was not paying all overtime payments, among other problems, the Inspectorate confirmed these violations and Dino had to start making payments. But this did not concern many old situations where the firm simply did not record the hours worked and it is up to the workers to prove they worked overtime. Many are simply not able to do so but some have taken the chain to court and have a good case against the company.
Although the claims are for larger sums that were sent out, the workers are happy to have received something from the company. However the union warns that what is owed is much more and that the unexplained actions of the supermarket may be an attempt to confuse workers and make them believe that the chain will eventually pay all the money, perhaps in attempt to get them to drop their court cases. The union is monitoring the situation and reminds workers from the chain that it can advise about overtime claims and will continue actions throughout the country against unpaid work, unfair dismissals and other problems in Dino.
Last month, workers from a Warsaw sex shop whose boss disappeared without paying decided to take action. The boss is known to have left workers without pay several times before, in cities around Poland. The boss was seen emptying the shop and when workers arrived, they found an empty store. The boss had said nothing and left the workers and rent unpaid.
People from ZSP managed to track him down, selling the rest of the inventory online and also managed to get him banned from selling on that site. The boss, who had threatened the workers when they phoned him, also threatened us, but we just continued to press for payment. As a result, the workers were paid through bank transfer, although one was underpaid by 177 zl. Therefore we will keep up the search for the boss, warning workers around Poland not to take any work with this cheater.
We stress that this is proof that it is worth taking action, even if the situation looks difficult.
On July 3, workers from the Belchatow hospital travelled to Warsaw to protest the systematic problems which have led to their situation and to try to get intervention on their behalf. The women have been protesting and occupying the hospital for two months since the time about 60 workers found themselves without a job.
Actions took place at the Ministry of Health, the Labour Ministry and the Parliament. At each stop the workers spoke with government representatives, demanding action in their case and changes in the adverse laws and policies which have caused their situation.
The women had previously been employed directly through the hospital but their jobs were outsourced. For most workers in the health services, outsourcing of a job begins a nightmare of precarity and worsening work conditions.
On June 16, there was a meeting of workers, local authorities, the lawyer for the city, the State Labour Inspectorate and the Director of the hospital in the Belchatow hospital where a group of workers have been protesting for some weeks. Other representatives of the ZSP Health Workers Union took part. The meeting was the result of protest actions last week when the workers went to the Voivodship office in Lodz, demanding action on their situation. Unfortunately, neither the company which the women were employed through, Naprzód, or the subsequent contractor dared to show up at the meeting.
The women were cleaners and food servers in the hospital. These services were outsourced and the women had work contracts through Naprzód. When the contract changed, that company claimed they'd be transferred, but the new service provider did not take the women to work, leaving them without any employment, but also without any unemployment benefits as they technically had not been terminated.
One of the results of the meeting was that a new meeting was held on June 17 at the Ministry of Labor. The aim of this meeting is to get around the fact that the women have not been officially terminated and to get financial help for them until the situation is resolved.
At the end of April, 60 women suddenly found themselves unemployed at the hospital in Belchatow. Since then, a large group of them have been fighting to get their jobs back.
The women had already been outsourced from the hospital and had been working there through a company called Cooperative for the Disabled „Naprzod”. This company is no cooperative in the normal sense, but a firm which exploits disabled people, mostly women, across Poland. The contractor at the hospital was changed to another firm called „Dozorbud” and „Naprzod” claimed that the workers had been transferred to the new company. But Dozorbud didn't take most of them to work, instead looking for new hires with no qualifications or experience. Presumably also without any work contracts and on subminimum wages.
Since then, the women have been sitting in at the hospital, demanding their jobs back.
On May 24, workers fighting for their jobs at Belchatow hospital protested in front of their workplace. 60 women have found themselves suddenly without any income after the contractor was changed at the hospital and they were not transferred to the new company.
The women are cleaners and meal servers at the hospital and most have worked there many years. Such workers used to be directly employed by the hospital, but outsourcing has become very popular in the last ten years in Poland. When outsourced, their jobs become much more precarious and on worse working conditions. Although there are laws related to the transfer of employees, companies often ignore them, as was in this case.
The workers were employed through a firm called Naprzod from Krakow which is supposed to be a ¨cooperative¨ for people with disabilities. All of the women working at the hospital have some form of disability, usually minor, that does not interfere with their work at all. Employers get some tax incentives for employing people in this category.
Future actions will take place at this company.