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Hotel Pays and Shows it is Worth Taking Action

A group of almost 250 waitstaff, cooks and kitchen help will finally see the money they earned while working at the hotel Double Tree by Hilton in Warsaw. The money was earned a couple of months ago but not paid. After a couple of the workers finally decided to take action, it seems that the conflict could be resolved rather quickly.

The first steps was an article in the press and one the ZSP website, followed by a visit to the hotel. Within 2 hours of our visit, we were contacted by the hotel management and a resolution was soon to follow.

The staff were hired through the agency AG+, which specializes in catering for events. The hotel, which is run by a company called Polaris, was just opening and, according to its business model, hires outside staff for events, especially conferences and weddings. After one month of work, the hotel did not want to pay, complaining about the services and offering a lower rate of pay for the workers. What followed next was a dispute in which the agency and the hotel were accusing and blaming each other and the workers were just not paid.

Some of the questions in this dispute are legitimate, but what the workers were interested in was getting their money. Many of them are teenagers or very young people who worked very hard at the hotel, even 20 or more hours per day. The amounts they were owed were very different, some working there only a couple of times, some much more, but these sums were all very significant to the workers. For example, because of these delayed payments, somebody lost his flat because he couldn't pay the rent. Others also did not have enough money to pay the bills and others still were at a loss since they had to pay for working clothes but saw no salary in return.

As we prepared to take action, we decided to visit the hotel and see what it looked like, with some leaflets about the situation. This was on Friday. We were immediately contacted by the hotel, which said it would like to resolve this problem and invited us the next day.

On Saturday, we found out that there is also regular staff in the hotel and they have normal work contracts. However, outside staff is also used. The hotel claimed that they would like to use outside staff which are on work contracts and even asked for this. But in Poland most agencies do not offer work contracts for such jobs and the hotel should know this. If they really cared about this, they would need to check it beforehand. Polaris claimed that the work performed was not up to standard and therefore they should pay a lower rate. They had offered to pay a lower rate for the workers, but in our opinion, the workers needed to get paid exactly what they were offered and the rest is a matter of dispute between the agency and the hotel as to whether the agency held up its end of the agreement.

The head of the agency was not at the meeting on Saturday, being away on vacation, but on Monday he came and signed an agreement with the hotel. We met with him and he promised that the workers would be paid everything they are owed after he receives the money from the hotel. The hotel contacted us that they were transferring the money.

In the meanwhile, the workers want to make sure they actually receive this money and are preparing for what to do if it doesn't happen or the payments are not correct. But we suppose that the agency will want to do everything correctly and avoid a group of angry workers visiting their office or any bad publicity.

We were very impressed by the young workers, who unlike so many workers in Poland today, refused to be cheated out of their salaries. After initial contacts with them, we were able to organize a larger meeting. And we think a lot of good topics came up that will help them in the future. We spoke about the different problems they faced in this situation and gave advice as to their rights at work and how to ensure them.

We guess we can already considered this a big win as the hotel paid tens of thousands of euros, but we do not close the conflict until every worker has the money in his or her pocket.