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The Coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected tens of millions of workers around the world. Many had to bear the brunt of a crisis, with little relief from the government. In Poland, billions are being spent – but help is not always going where it should be and millions of the most vulnerable are left with nothing. This is because government relief has focused on aid to businesses, not directly to workers. Millions of unemployed and workers on casual contracts have been left out in the cold. In addition, despite promising generous susidies to businesses that maintain employment, the government is now dismantling many important aspects of the labor law, allowing bosses to cut salaries, change working conditions, force overtime and giving more control over vacations. It has even proposed allowing the suspension of work contracts, without severance pay.

At the same time, prices are up and even public housing tenants have received rent hikes. Aid to tenants is proposed, but will not include anybody who is actually behind on the rent, as debtors are excluded.

In response to all the brainless and insensitive acts and raid on public funds (including workers' social funds) to pump up businesses – even those which had huge profits year after year – ZSP called for a demonstration at the Parliament, as soon as the quarantine ends. Well, the quarantine is not exactly over as people may shop in malls but the state refuses to mention when people can hold protests again. This is a deliberate method, not to control the spread of any disease, but to keep the public pacified, especially before elections. Recent demonstrations have been met with tear gas and LRAD. In light of this, we insist on our right to hold „revolutionary gymnastics” in the public space which is ours. May 29 we will voice our discontent and repeat our demands, which as we see, have large support from the public.

We refuse to take any step backwards. Hands off workers' rights! There is no better time to organize!

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Earlier this year we had thought how to observe May Day but all plans were changed due to the situation with Coronavirus. Currently in Poland, demonstrations and even all public assembly of more than 2 people (2 meters apart) is banned – but that hasn't stopped numerous protests from happening, Nor has it stopped people who organize actions in public, such as free food distribution or the distribution of masks. In Warsaw, after recent protests some of us engaged in, we are aware that we are observed by the police who would mobilize against us if we tried to go out in any larger group. On the other hand, public opinion is quite divided, with some considering that gathering any mass of people would be irresponsible. We decided that the most important thing is that we need to be agitated and mobilizing people all the time and to find ways to respond to different worker conflicts which are occuring around us. With this in mind, over the past month we have been trying to respond to a few situations were workers have been fired, usually without notice and sometimes not getting paid.

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ZSP union in Warsaw responds to the current situation with some concrete demands. These are partly in response to the Act called „Shield 2.0”. The first version of the Act contained many illogical and unjust terms which we criticized. Some things we later changed in the version 2.0 but other problems remain or were added. The Act pretends to protect workers but mostly is an economic stimulus program to subsidize businesses during the crisis. Workers also cannot apply for certain forms of help themselves but only the bosses can apply. We have shown statistical evidence that many bosses are not asking for this help on behalf of their workforce. The unemployed or people between gigs are not entitled to help. We have been speaking publically about the problems of this version of the Act and these points are being widely criticized. Others have made similar criticisms. For the purpose of this introduction and to be brief, we will not go into all the technicalities

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During the last weeks, members of ZSP organized and/or took part in numerous public actions in a few cities around Poland. It is also planning a larger protest in the upcoming weeks in support of working people affected by the virus and against the government plans that favor public aid to businesses but not to the most precarious and vulnerable members of society.

Many of our members, often together with other libertarian activists, had been involved in direct mutual aid to people – from sewing and distributing masks, to providing more specialist equipment to fellow workers in hospitals, to aiding the homeless. However, for several weeks now, the union also has been calling for a mass protest for „when we can go back out on the streets”. Now it is clear that the government plans to open up shopping malls before it will allow any protests and that it may try to keep protests banned for up to a year (or longer). However, no ban can really stop us.

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Around the world, different governments are using the Coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to bring in more social control over people's lives. While millions of people are worried about their health and/or ability to survive economically in Poland, the Parliament will be reading a draft bill of a law to tighten abortion restrictions in Poland, essentially banning it. As it is, Poland has one of the most restrictive laws and abortion is only allowed in cases of rape, incest and serious health risks for the woman or fetus. However, many women have trouble with access even under these circumstances as some doctors interfere with women's choices. This situation is more likely to affect women in difficult economic circumstances as women with more money can afford to travel to another country for this procedure.

The same bill would also, among other things, ban sexual education in schools.

Attempts in the recent past to introduce similar legislation was met with mass protests and a women's strike in Poland. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in actions all over the country in a wave of decentralized protests that is rarely seen here. At this time, the government has made some orders, the legality of which is largely disputed, preventing people from even walking in the streets two people next to each other. All public gatherings have been banned for over a month now. Despite this, many women have been and are planning on demonstrating their views and we can expect some to even appear at the Parliament, despite all bans. Across the country, signs are going up on windows, cars or bicycles, posters are appearing in the street and people are going out to say „NO!”. The ZSP is supporting these actions and in Warsaw members of the union will publically manifest their opinions and take part in any civil disobedience, especially any attempts to protest at the Parliament – all the time keeping in mind our social responsibility towards the collective public health.

As the state once again threatens to limit our rights, we will not sit quietly and wait!

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The Union of Syndicalists of Poland (ZSP) has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by calling for different forms of working class action. It is planning a mobilization to start as soon as it is possible to gather en masse in public.

First, it has pointed out that workers who want to (and should) stay at home, should do so. In Poland this is even protected in the Labor Code – however, many workers are not protected by it due to employer abuse of civil contracts; workers on such contracts, which number in the millions in Poland, are excluded from these legal protections. Furthermore, some employers have threatened workers who want to stay home or misinformed them of their rights. The most common threat is that, due to a lack of business, the workplace will suffer economically and have to cut staff. It is implied that workers will be fired for using their right to refuse work in such a situation.

One place where ZSP has been active for some years is the Post Office and this is one of the places that the government thinks should function during the pandemic. ZSP has been calling for action in the Post Office and informing workers of their rights while the directors misinform them, claiming that if they want leave, it has to be unpaid or come out of their vacation time (which is subject to approval). Right now it is hard to judge the level of work refusal and, ironically, some workers feel like it is something of a social duty to service the public at this time.

Indeed, some members of our union are out working with the public now (taking the precautions and actions merited by social responsibility) – in health care, bringing food to people who have self-isolated or have been sent home, delivering masks to workers or trying to lobby with city officials.

The union in Warsaw is trying to organize an action at the first possible date to confront the government, which has not done enough to combat the phenomenom of „trash contracts”, despite lip service to the labor movement. When the situation allows for a mass gathering, it will call on precarious workers to protest the situation. Members of that union who are also involved in tenants' organizing have called on the city to freeze rents for people who are adversly affected by the situation. (The city President has infuriated people by first offering help to business renters, but nothing yet for households.) Although the government has promised some help to workers, including those on civil contracts, the union has pointed out that many people will fail to qualify for such help and that scores of workers on civil contracts which offer no guarantees or notice period have already lost their jobs and are likely to be affected for many months.

The union has published two statements in the past week, one in specific response to the government's crisis proposal. The crisis proposal helps out companies in several ways and assumes the burden for paying a small, one-time payment to the millions of workers who are on civil contracts. As the union has pointed out many times during its existence, the use of civil contracts often is a fradulent way of avoiding the responsibilities of labor contracts and this state of things is passively supported by state institutions that supposedly control this. The State Labor Inspectorate is not effective and often turns a blind eye to employer abuse, as do the courts, which even have blatantly ignored to law to protect the profits of businesses.The Union has called out the government on this public bailout, arguing that when it gets an application for the payment, it can gather information on which employers are using fraudulent contracts. In the Union's opinion, we must help all these workers right now, but we should not support these abusive companies with public money. If they do not want to compensate their workforce, which they falsely claim are not permanent workers, they can be fined and the proceeds can be used to pay workers.This is something that the State, which has facilitated employer abuse of civil contracts for the last three decades, does not want to do. ZSP has always pointed out the State's complicity with this system of organized theft and maintains that we need to keep the pressure to win significant improvements and provide more security for the precarious workers who now find themselves in a very difficult situation.

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Since the beginning of December, ZSP has been involved in a conflict with Hostel 24 in Bydgoszcz. A few dozen workers were cheated and they have organized three protests already: two at the hostel and one in front of the owner's house. The union will keep fighting, not only for the money, but to stop the employer from cheating anybody else.

As it turns out, many people who worked in Hostel 24 were not paid and we can see that this has been going on for at least 5 years. We do not know the whole extent of it, but at least 30 former workers have come forward and contacted the union. Currently, anybody who was working there but not was not paid has quit but is fighting for payment and to let other potential victims become aware of the modus operandi of this "business".

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In recent years, ZSP has been in battle with several companies, which have tried to avoid fulfilling their obligations to workers or have used repressive measures such as criminal cases and firings in a vain attempt to discourage their organizing. We are happy to announce that in the past couple of months, we have had 4 victories.

Two very important victories were in cases involving the Post Office. Zbyszek from the ZSP in Wroclaw who was fired for organizing was reinstated. We never stopped protesting this unfair dismissal and the scare tactics used by this state-run enterprise. Zbyszek was fired after 30 years at the Post Office at the end of 2017, after Christmas time protests by the workers. At the end of February – beginning of March 2018, there were protests made in a dozen cities internationally about the repression at the Post Office, including Zbyszek's case. We thank everybody for their support! His reinstatement is a major victory in a country where the courts usually uphold firings, even if they were unfair.

The Post Office also tried to bring criminal cases several times against one comrade who didn't even work there, but supported the protests. Again their case was thrown out of court. Another comrade who was unfairly dismissed in 2017 is still fighting for his reinstatement. (Unfortunately, it is very, very slow in Poland.)

There were two other victories – against Polomarket and Schaffa shoes. ZSP had been organizing and protesting against Polomarket, which abused workers' rights in various ways – for example, by not paying overtime work. The union organized dozens of protests. Although there were many court decisions that the supermarket had to pay workers for overtime, the company stubbornly appealed them. The court then decided that, because of these appeals, the supermarket should pay the workers double the sum they had already won.

At Schaffa shoes the workers were able to win the money they were owed. The two shops which cheated the workers have also closed since the protests there.

Maybe one day the bosses will learn that it is cheaper to be honest and pay workers than to fk with ZSP. In the meanwhile, we will keep going, fighting wage theft, abuse and intimidation.

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On April 9, the Regional Court for Warsaw Central District dismissed the case brought before it by the Polish Post Office against a member of ZSP – it's second attempt to criminally prosecute the comrade for his support of workers who have been organizing at the Post Office for the last few years.

The cases prepared by the Post Office (of course using public funds), read like conspiracy theory nonsense. They claimed, among other things, that providing a forum where workers could criticize the Post Office even posed a threat to national security (!), and they treated criticism of Solidarity Union as a criminal matter. It should be noted that the person in question is not employed at the Post Office but has been active in supporting the protests of the workers and their attempts to unionize, outside of the mainstream structures.

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The Polish Post Office has again filed a criminal case against a member of ZSP and has reported the union to the State Counterintelligence Agency (ABW) in an attempt to quell a wave of industrial action that is sweeping the country.

The documents show both a frightening degree of invigilation and completely idiotic mistakes and ridiculous claims. It outlines a history of the unions actions at the Post Office, even from the time before it was founded and accuse it of provided forums where workers leak trade secrets and encouraging them to commit „criminal acts” - such as protesting or calling for a strike. In particular it singles out one comrade but mentions a few others. It also hilariously exposes his supposed pseudonyms, which in reality are other rather well-known people.

Despite the comic moments found in the generally incompetent document, the situation is not at all funny. The criminal charges could carry up to 2 years in jail and could lead to civil liability related to ongoing industrial actions.

Currently, postal workers in around 30 cities in Poland are involved in a dispute with the Post Office which they do not want to recognize. In 20 cities, approximately 40 percent of mail carriers have come down with a case of the „Carrier Pigeon Flu”, an epidemic that we have been warning about for some time. Around Poland, workers in certain professions – such as teachers or court workers – have organized such sick leave protests when they were unable to organize a strike through their union. In a couple of smaller towns, nobody came to work.

Last week, demands were delivered to the Post Office management. They include pay raises and other improvements of working conditions. The postal workers also demand the reinstatement of Zbyszek and Rafal who were fired for organizing at the Post Office. Now they will have to add postulates against the invigilation and attempted criminalization of protest activity.

As the management denies that there is any problem, the Carrier Pidgeon Flu continues to spread across the country.

See also: https://zsp.net.pl/new-wave-protests-and-threat-repression-polish-post-of...

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