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Protest of Hospital Cleaners in Jaworzno

On September 25, a group of cleaners from the hospital in Jaworzno held a protest to demand better working conditions. The cleaners marched from the Municipal Office through the central part of town to the hospital.

The protest highlighted a number of demands of the cleaners. Like many such workers in Poland, their jobs are outsourced to an outside company (although in this hospital, some cleaners are also hired directly by the hospital). The firm that is supposed to provide cleaning services is Impel, a huge company that specializes in providing cleaning and security services. However, Impel has been using other companies in the hospital to avoid responsibility. The workers are cheated out of overtime pay as they are forced to sign 2 or 3 contracts and the main employer claims they work the statutory limit and are working for somebody else as well, not overtime with them. The use of multiple employers also affects people on trash contracts because there are laws that limit the number of temporary trash contracts one employer can sign before the contract should become permanent.

So one of the main demands of the cleaners is direct employment with the hospital and normal contracts for everybody. Currently, the cleaners in the hospital have different working conditions – some are hired directly, some on normal work contracts and some on trash contracts – through a variety of firms that Impel is using to avoid responsibility.

The workers want to be paid properly for night shifts and extra if they work overtime, which is required by law.

Another problem in the hospital is the fact that the cleaners all should have received a special payment already for working during the COViD pandemic. All health care workers were entitled to this, but part of the cleaners did not receive it yet.

Finally, as of July 2021, the government raised the minimum salaries in health care jobs. This raise also concerned cleaners but they did not get a raise. This may be that those who work directly through hospitals receive these raises, but the firms that provide services from outside do not feel obliged to raise the wages.

After the cleaners met to articulate their demands, they spoke to the local media about their problems and said that they might go on strike. Impel reacted to this by trying to intimidate workers and get them to sign a statement that everything is good. This is a typical move from the union-buster's handbook.

Cleaners are usually the most precarious health care workers. Their jobs are often outsourced and not very stable and they are treated as very expendable. For this reason, they are not as organized as other health care workers. On September 11, health care workers from all over Poland demonstrated in the capital and set up a camp in front of the Council of Ministers. However cleaners were absent which reflects the low level of organization in this field. While nurses, doctors, EMTs and other professionals are still protesting, the cleaners from Jaworzno are currently the only group which has organized itself and taken action.

Despite Impel's attempt to intimidate the workers, on September 25 the protest took place as planned. It started at the Munipal Office because it is responsible for the hospital. The workers talked about their conditions and demanded that the municipality take action. Then they marched through the town, through the main square, handing out copies of „Direct Action” dedicated to health care workers and their situation. They finished at the hospital.

Nobody was sure what would happen when they went back to work but one woman received her payment for working during COViD and the Impel people started to cynically claim that the workers themselves wanted to have all the different contracts. It looks as if the company got a little spooked but nothing has changed yet. The situation is still dynamic and the workers are waiting to see what will happen next week and how they should develop the conflict if the situation is not resolved.