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Statement on the case of Torun Plaza and the company Plaza Centers: no, everything is not alright

In relation to the conflict at Torun Plaza mall construction site regarding the non-payment of workers employed by subcontractor companies, representatives of another organization, the Workers' Initiative, have signed and published a statement under duress, which contains misleading information. The situation is that the boss of Plaza Centers, who met with people in Torun, used one of the oldest tactics in the books: he tried to scare workers, claiming that the information about the situation in Torun caused financial losses, due to falling stock prices. In reality, the price of stocks in Plaza Centers had been falling dramatically for quite some time. The fact that the company had a negative investment rating may have something to do with this.

Unfortunately, workers got frightened. One that went to negotiate with the boss even got fired. The boss pushed hard, but unfortunately, nobody pushed hard back. The result was that, according to one member of Workers' Initiative, they were told what to write and, if not, they would have more trouble.

Although we can understand that in this situation, where the rest of the workers stayed quiet, somebody can decide that there is no reason to fight further, ZSP Warsaw feels obliged to say that the content of the statement is misleading and only will help give license to Plaza Centers to continue their current practices. The main reason for this is that the Workers' Initiative have signed that the situation was a „misunderstanding” and that „the worker was paid what he was owed”. (This by the way, refers to only one of the workers on the building site.) This might lead people to believe that there were never problems with non-payments or that there were only problems with one individual. Further, there is no note as to what the worker was paid and when.

The worker in question did not receive all that he was owed, only the part of his salary that was official. The reason for this is that on Torun Plaza construction site, some workers have only a minimum salary on the books; the rest they are paid illegally, especially for non-evidenced overtime pay.

The ZSP Warsaw has warned workers before about this practice and its possible consequences. We will write a special brochure about this, with tips for workers about evidencing their real working hours, some time in the near future.

The representative of Plaza Centers demonstrated the power of media spin, claiming that when they issued a press release, with the incorrect information that none of the subcontracting companies owed any money, and when the press announced that they would pay workers, their stock prices went up a little. Of course this is the whole purpose of them making such statements, to preserve their image, even though it is clear that Plaza Centers has had problems with non-payments more than once. It is clear also that such a statement benefirs Plaza Centers because they have something they could use so that they could later claim that there was no problem at all, just a „misunderstanding”.

ZSP Warszawa thinks that such a misleading statement cannot be left without comment since it is one of the obligations of workers' organizations to point out in where there have been problems and to explain the mechanisms of this in detail, in an attempt to inform future workers so that they can avoid making the same mistakes.

In the situation where workers are afraid and disorganized, we are afraid that there is not much we can do. Our campaign included exposing this situation and protesting it and, as a result, something was done, people were paid the money in their contracts, a fraction of what they actually worked. If the workers have become frightened and apparently will not fight this, it means that they have resigned themselves to this loss of salary and their own exploitation.

ZSP strives to change the atmosphere amongst the working classes from silence and resignation, to active resistance and organized responses to such situations. This is a difficult task given situations like this, but it is not one we will ever give up. We will also never give in to the bosses on their terms when it is they who are clearly in the wrong.

If the workers of Torun Plaza have decided not to fight, we cannot fight for them and will not continue any actions on their behalf. However, this does not mean that everything is OK, nor does it mean that we let Plaza Centers off the hook. It is obvious that this company has a record of problems and that working conditions on sites like Torun Plaza resulted in workers being ripped off. Therefore, we will continue to remind workers about Plaza Centers, and about problems in the construction industry in general, at every opportunity. We declare that, as an organization fighting for workers rights on an international level, we have comrades in Serbia, Romania, Greece, Czech Republic... in fact, EVERYWHERE that Plaza Centers operates, and we intend to warn people in all these places as to what potential problems they could have.

Our struggle continues and we will fight it without compromise.

ZSP Warsaw would like to thank those who took part in actions related to this case and stress that without them, probably the workers would have received nothing. Although we cannot consider the outcome to be a victory for the workers, we do consider it a victory for solidarity and the principles of direct action.

ZSP Warsaw