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The Struggle Continues

Another worker from Zabka convenience stores was able to get money which he was owed after ZSP announced it intention to picket the store.

The worker's rights were violated in several ways: first, he was fired for requesting a day off and was not paid for the time he worked in that last month. As it turned out, he also had been receiving less than the minimum wage and was not paid any overtime pay and was illegally employed, with no contract. Besides this, he was subject to working conditions which in Poland are illegal for people under the age of 18.

We decided to make a picket and sent information about the money that he was owed, calculating the difference between the legal minimum wage and what he was receiving.

The day before the picket, the young worker received the money on his account so we considered the conflict closed. However, we still went with a symbolic picket to Zabka because we had already announced it and were not sure everybody who heard about it was informed. Also, we think it is only fair that we stress to the bosses that they cannot silence us about what they are doing.

Zabka is the largest convenience store in Poland. It is rapidly expanding, with over 9000 shops in the country and more than 500 in Warsaw alone. It is owned by the shady CVC Capital Partners, a spin-off of Citigroup. The chain operates as a franchise and we can see that, although there are franchisees who follow the law, Zabka stores very often act in violation of the labor code and cheat workers in various ways. We are aware of many problems occuring at this chain around the company.

Like all franchisers, the owners of the brand try to make us believe that they have nothing to do with the illegal labor practices in their stores but there are no clauses about working conditions in the franchise contract and no contractual penalties for exploiting workers. It isn't that Zabka doesn't put penalties on its franchisees; tons of people have faced huge lawsuits by Zabka for various issues. The company is interested in earning as much as they can and has no qualms taking advantage of their franchisees but we see that working conditions are not on their list of priorities.

In October we organized pickets in Warsaw and in Grodzisk Mazowiecki at Zabka stores and also managed to get payment for other workers whose wages were stolen. (In Polish: In the past, we held similar actions at a number of shops in Warsaw and other cities in Poland.

Our union will keep the pressure up on this chain, which is now a major employer in Poland and an employer of people who are vulnerable to exploitation and wage theft.

Workers are not to be screwed with and we will fight back!

ZSP Warsaw


The 28th IWA Congress took place from December 9-11 in Alcoy Spain. A group of delegates and observers from the ZSP took part in the work of the Congress, Below is one account of this event, which commemorates 100 years of the International Workers' Association.

The IWA Congresses occur every three years: the last one took place in 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. There we decided that the Centennary Congress should be held in Spain, hosted by our Section, the CNT-AIT. The comrades in Spain chose the city Alcoy to host the celebration. This choice was significant, as we will explain later and proved to be an excellent place to hold our Congress.

Delegations arrived from most of the IWA Sections (although a few delegates were not allowed to travel to the Schengen area). We were met with the greatest comaraderie and hospitality by our hosts in Spain who had also prepared a number of events to accompany the Congress.

Prior to the Congress there were concerts, book presentations and a tour with historical information about the Petroleum Revolution. For those who may not know about this, it was a very significant event in workers' history in 1873 when workers from the Spanish Regional Federation of the International Workingmen's Association led a revolt and, for a time, took over the town before being brutally repressed. Such events were part of the rich legacy of the libertarian workers' movement in Spain which eventually led to the foundation of the CNT in 1910.

As usual, the Congress agenda was quite extensive and contained many points relating to issues such as improving the internal functioning of the International, welcoming new members into the Federation, creating and or presenting the work of working groups and practical projects, discussion, rotation of the functions and more.

One of the first points of the Agenda related to affiliation so we are pleased to announce that our comrades from Ireland,from„Organize” have joined as Friends of the IWA. We look forward to fruitful cooperation!


On October 28, ZSP Warsaw organized two connected actions: one in front of the Russian Embassy and one in front of the Ukrainian. Although the message was somewhat different at both, we carried similar ideas there as well.

One of our main slogan was „Glory to Deserters” which is a detournement of the Polish patriotic slogan „Glory to Heroes”, which glories the military. We brought this slogan to the Russian Embassy where we strongly criticized Putin's war but also spoke of the many acts of desertion, sabotage and other resistance happening in Russian, despite risks of extreme repression. We yelled that Putin should end up like Nicholas II and that Putin was kaput. A couple of Russian dissidents also joined in with their anti-war message. Prior to the action we made it clear that everybody who was against the war was welcome at this demo, which was important to us because a few weeks ago, the self-ordained leader or the so-called women's strike again showed her deplorable attitude by heating up a pogrom-like atmosphere to chase Russians off a different demo. We had to make our opinion about that also known. We also expressed the opinion that Poland should open its borders to deserters who refuse to go to war in Ukraine and not discriminate against them,

After decrying the actions of the Russian government, we moved on to the Ukrainian Embassy. Here we had a few ideas from Ukrainian anarchists about what they wanted expressed. The first thing was the problem with not allowing assigned males to go abroad. We pointed out that this was probably affecting the poor more than anybody else, because plenty of people could not afford to become 30 year old students or pay bribes at the border to get into Poland, but some people are stuck. We also talked about how this was part of the patriarchal world view, that men are supposed to „man up” and fight.

While we were at the Embassy, we also talked about the fact that the government is taking advantage of this war to push through all sorts of reforms to the labor code that actually their neo-liberals have been trying to push for some time and finally found a pretext to do so.

We expressed solidarity with all the people who are suffering in the situation and called on people to organize. We also spoke about the problems of Ukrainian workers in Poland, who are finding themselves in a more and more desperate situation, with both unscrupulous bosses and landlords and called on them to organize themselves to stand up to this situation.

ZSP Warsaw


As ZSP approaches its 15th anniversary next month, Laure Akai takes a look back at the experiences of the union.

This downloadable PDF briefly describes many of ZSP's work conflicts and mentions other areas of its activity.


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.


In October 2020, ZSP published „Fighting Back”, a longer article detailing various
examples of how the union has fought against different types of wage theft. (The
article is available here in English: .) The article was written to precede the International Week of Action against Unpaid Wages which the IWA held from October 12-18, 2020. It was decided to repeat the week of actions again, this time from October 11-17, 2021.

As we stated in the previous article, wage theft is an enormous problem in Poland and comes in various forms. It is made far worse by the fact that the legal system is practically useless in terms of helping workers and cheating employers know that if they steal, they are very likely to get away with it. This has been one area where ZSP has had quite unique success. Almost no mainstream unions deal with this issue in most of its most common forms, especially when it concerns categories of workers that it routinely ignores: those working on trash contracts or without contracts at all. However, wage theft also occurs in workplaces where unions are present. ZSP has taken on many cases that the mainstream unions won't touch, thus making it an effective tool for workers' direct action.


From June 25-27, the IWA Plenary and Extraordinary Congress took place. Due to government-imposed travel restrictions, it could not take place in Slovakia, as originally planned, but was conducted online. The positive side of this was that around 80 delegates and observers from around the globe took part and there was no need for anybody to deal with discriminatory visa politics.

The main news was that two Friend organizations – ULET from Colombia and WAS from Austria – decided to become Sections of the IWA. We also welcomed new organizations from Pakistan (WSI) and the Phillipines (MK) as Friends. The Extraordinary Congress also formally recognized that Solidaridad Obrera, which recently took steps to federate, is the continuation of our Friends of the IWA in Chile.

The Plenary dealt with some questions of internal organization but also with issues such as the upcoming centenary of the IWA. A number of events are being planned in different cities and a centenary Congress will take place in Spain.

The IWA also decided to repeat the international actions against unpaid wages that were also held in 2020 but were somewhat limited in scope due to the COViD-19 pandemic.

There was also a discussion on workplace organizer training that a few of our Sections carry out and others have participated in. A couple of Sections said that they would be holding new sessions this year.

The Plenary approved proposals for publications related to the IWA for the upcoming centenary which will be part of a publishing initiative approved at the 2019 Congress. The Plenary also approved the creation of a working group that will focus on the climate crisis.

We are looking forward to seeing the work of the IWA develop and to the events of our Centenary.


Since October, a number of workers have been fighting against the wage theft that happened and is happening at Tumiraj educational center in Warsaw. In November, two pickets were held at the center but instead of paying, the boss tried to make ridiculous claims to the police. In the middle of December, the union went to the boss's house. He appeared and talked to the police, claiming not to know anything about this and when he saw us try to approach him, he ran into the woods behind his house and disappeared. Since this is his arrogant refusal to even speak to workers but literally runs away from them and tries to make false claims to the police to stop protests, we informed all his neighbors about what he did and promised to return.


Janusz Granos Book Firm runs several shops in Warsaw and an online internet sale of books. Unfortunately it is cheating workers. First, they are not always given their contracts before they start and then when they get them, the conditions are changed and the contract is constructed in a wrong way. Evidence of working time is not kept and workers were not given proper pay slips showing the hours worker, evidence that insurance was paid or not, etc. A couple of workers were cheated so they called for a boycott of the firm. On December 9, a protest was held in front of the main shop in Warsaw. Two workers presented their demands, stating how much money they were owed: 2800 and 1050 zloties. After the protest, the boss paid 700 zloties to one worker, which is not near the amount owed. The ZSP will continue the protests after the national quarantine ends in the second half of January, when shops can open again.


ZSP Warsaw has opened a conflict with a preschool and educational center that has not paid a few workers. 3 workers are involved, including the school psychologist and speech therapist. They have been waiting for months for their salaries, plus payment for unused vacation time. They also had problems that they could not get any social benefits because the boss did not send the required form into the Social Security Office and they received an incorrect work certificate, which is a document they need for further employment.

At the end of July, the IWE Foundation, which ran the school, took the decision to wind up their activity. The boss and the chair of the Foundation had set up a commercial enterprise in March. They obviously had no intention of closing the school and it is still functioning regularly. Although the same people run the school as before, by using another name, they can pretend that IWE does not have any obligation towards its former employees. Despite the fact that IWE is in liquidation, 2 weeks ago there were job advertisements – for a psychologist and a speech therapist, posted under the name IWE.

The women had contacted the State Labor Inspectorate about the case, but they were told that nothing could be done, because their employer is in liquidation. This is despite the obvious fact that the employers just changed the name and legal form under which they operate.

No doubt they feel untouchable, using the legal loopholes that the state sanctions to help unscrupulous employers commit wage theft. However, we will show them that they are not, that such actions should never be tolerated.

ZSP will protest at the School. Last week we also visited the State Labor Inspectorate, among other reasons, about this situation. We pointed out how yet again, the state provides the legal means to encourage wage theft and that its inspectorates are often useless. The best tool for workers is organization, mutual aid and direct action.

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