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ZSP Demands Pro-Worker Polices and Protests Repressive Acts

Since the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, ZSP has been reacting to job and salary cuts both in particular workplaces and in general. The government reacted to the situation with a series of aid packages to support business and supposed also to support workers. However, the union pointed out from the beginning that the policies did not cover all workers and were grossly inadequate to the situation. One of the main problems in the government's policies relates to the fact that it has for the last two decades or more legitimized a dual system of employment where part of the workforce is considered a „worker” and given all the protection of the Labor Code but huge numbers of workers are fake independent contractors. When the government said it would offer help to these workers, the mechanism they put in place meant that in reality, most of them received nothing. We pointed this out and these criticisms resonated. After a couple of months of pressure, the Act called „the Shield” was amended to take this into account. Although we can count this as a victory, other parts of the amendment, as well as a new Act on Solidarity Payments were totally unacceptable.

The Act on Solidarity Payments highlight the problems of the constant discrimination of a large segment of workers in Poland. Not only do these workers have fewer rights and guarantees against immediate dismissal, but also now, they will not be entitled to relief under the new Act. The Act would offer up to 3 monthly payments of 1400 zloties (313 EUR) to people who lost their jobs – but only for those who had an employment contract. Even here, certain provisions of the Act guarantee that some of those people will also be excluded. However, during the Pandemic, people who were contractors were the ones hit especially hard as employers are able to fire them much more easily or not extend their contracts. Many of them have monthly contracts and those were the easiest to get rid of. However, the state did not include these people (which are more than 3 million workers) in the act. Many people were left with nothing.

In addition to this, we noted that each time the government tried to amend „the Shield Act”, it tried to smuggle in many other amendments to Acts which had nothing to do with COVID-19. We had pointed out earlier that they even tried to raise rents in public housing under the emergency act. (After pointing out these outrageous attempts to sneak in other legislation, this did not pass.) However, they managed to sneak in and pass other outrageous amendments – this time to the Criminal Code. Now there are prison sentences as certain „crimes” were reclassified (under the pretext of emergency measures against Coronavirus). These include insulting the President or performing an abortion. (The latter is also unclear as to whether it also can be extended to include criminalizing those who facilitate abortions by providing pills.) Worst of all, measures similar to the American's 3 strike policies – which had always been struck down before, each time it was proposed – where smuggled in. Now, some petty „crimes”, which did not carry any jail time before will do so – like petty theft. (Ie., stealing a candy bar can now land somebody in prison.) Those who repeat crimes, even petty crimes, can be subject to much stricter sentences. It was pointed out that those who embezzle millions are now subject to lighter sentences than somebody who was caught stealing a candy bar 3 times.

In the midst of everything, few people noticed any of this and there was almost no public debate about all of these heinous provisions. The union decided to make noise about this. On June 20 we were present at the office responsible for legislation and on the 25th, in front of the Presidential Palace. Between the two protests, the President managed to rubber stamp the amendments, just before he headed off to cozy up to the fanatical American President to solidify his image as an integral part of the global movement of conservative authoritarianism which has taken over in different parts of the world.

As the mainstream unions remain passive during this huge crisis for millions of workers and as millions get wound up in the electoral farse and all its debates meant to distract people, we try to focus attention on these issues which are supported by the neo-liberal agenda. And this agenda is supported by both parties trying to capture the Presidency, which makes the topic off-limits to the partisan press.

The union plans to take more action in the upcoming months.