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ZSP Demands End to Shady Wage Practices

The ZSP Multi-Branch Union in Warsaw is drawing attention to a shady practice which we uncovered being used in the Praski Hospital. The situation started when workers were afraid they would lose their jobs on permanent contracts to an external company. This hospital, like many others, did any with some workers directly employed in favor of external companies. In the case of Praski Hospital, some workers had fixed-term contracts which the hospital allowed to lapse, without offering any extension.

It came out that the hospital also was using some shady practices. Contracts were signed for less than the minimum wage but then they claimed that extra payments made for working the night shift meant that the worker actually earned the minimum wage.

This practice is currently upheld by the law, meaning that a minimum wage worker in fact can be denied in practice extra payments for overtime or night work. Various proposals have been recently made to eliminate this practice. What is interesting is that in the Tri-Partite Commission, even the employers agreed to eliminate this practice. This is because they found it is sometimes hard to get people to work the night shifts without it. Despite agreement between the main unions and the bosses, the government did not accept proposals which would end this practice.

ZSP decided to bring attention to this matter and support the case of one colleague who felt he was owed money. A picket was held at the hospital and people went to the office of the director to present demands. A meeting was held the next day.

The comrade received the payments he was entitled too, however, we did not come to any agreement with those in charge of the hospital about the practices in that institution. The hospital director (who is also a city councilman from the social democrats), defended these practices, claiming that "workers are happy" or that the real problem is with the budget they get. While we agree that the underfunding of health care is a root problem of the labor conditions, we find it disgraceful that anybody argue as if working people are happy to slave away for starvation wages, which is what the hospital pays because a minimum wage means a miserable existance in a city as expensive as Warsaw. Working in such conditions is nothing more than a sign of desperation for the part of the working class which is consigned to low wage, dead end jobs. This attitude is even more disgraceful since it comes from an elected official who is supposed to represent a more supposedly more progressive electorate.

A suit against the hospital was subsequently withdrawn and the worker considers that he has no further claims. The union however does not consider this a totally satisfactory conclusion to the situation. The outsourcing is still taking place and the hospital director seems disinterested in improving the situation.

The union is discussing the next steps and in the meanwhile will continue to campaign against outsourcing in public institutions. It also will try to raise awareness of the problems of the treatment of work at night and push for new policy on this matter.