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On December 18, cleaners from the Debak Refugee Center picketed at the home (and registered "office") of one of the owners of Sadar Sport Management, the company which has the contract for providing cleaning services. There have been numerous problems with the company, which did not provide contracts to some workers and which gave only part-time contracts to full-time workers in order to save on different tax and insurance payments. Workers decided to organize and demand both money owed by Sadar and direct employment at the Center.

After an action a couple of weeks ago, the staff has been on the outs with the management, which is just trying to cover up its practices and make threats to ZSP. Since the managers have not acted fairly towards the workers, the workers decided to visit them. As the company does not bother to have a physical office, the workers went to the company's registered address, which is also the private home of one of the owners in the affluent town of Komorow.

The workers picketed, read out their demands including the exact amount of money they would have received had they been normally employed, leaving a copy both in the mailbox and stuck to the building.

Later this week they plan to visit the government institution which runs the refugee center which their demands to be employed directly. The Refugee Center is serviced by five full-time cleaners however their labour is outsourced. ZSP points out that such outsourcing usually is accompanied by various forms of cheating and exploitation and for the last few years have been conducting a campaign called "Enough Exploitation on Public Money" in order to demand, among other things that government institutions employ people directly and resign from outsourcing.

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On December 10, ZSP organized another picket at a Schaffa Shoes shop in Warsaw to protest against their practices towards workers – namely, unjustified dismissals, late payments, lack of payments and generally poor treatment. A similar picket was held earlier in the year at another shop, where another worker had similar problems and, although that situation was finally resolved, it seems that these practices persist.

A couple of ex-employees took part in the protest to support their colleague who was having problems with the firm. We were able to see the boss (and his father, who also plays a role in the business) in action. Prior to the action, the boss took a selfie of himself at the police station to send to the worker, to suggest that there would be a police intervention. This was understood as some sort of attempt to scare her, which obviously did not work. However, part of the money owed was paid just before the action (the main salary, but not the equivalent for vacation days).

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For several years already, ZSP has been fighting cases related to outsourcing, especially in public institutions. Often conditions worsen or workers are denied certain fundamental rights when their work is outsourced. A new group of workers who decided to try and correct their working conditions are the cleaners at the Debak Refugee Center in Podkowa Lesna, near Warsaw.

A firm oddly called Sadar Sport Management won the public tender for cleaning services. This company is present in other places, such as in the commuter train stations in Grodzisk Mazowiecki or in the center of Warsaw, where a couple of workers are without any contracts or benefits whatsoever. They also won a tender recently to clean the court in Grodzisk.

Although the company advertised that they were hiring people on work contracts, the cleaners have either some contract for services, contracts for reduced working hours (although they work 40 hours) or no contract at all. In the case of the first, there is no protection of employment as under the Labour Code, and different benefits are denied. In the case of the second, less money is paid into the retirement fund, the firm is only obliged to provide a fraction of the paid vacation required by the law and, in case of illness, the worker is entitled to much lower sick leave payments. In the case of being illegally employed with no contract, the workers are denied basically all of their rights.

With all this, we can say for certain that the workers are being cheated and exploited by the employer and we should not be paying for this with public money.

ZSP has appealed to the Office for Foreigners, the institution which runs the Refugee Center, to stop using outsourced services and hire the 5 workers directly on normal work contracts.

Tomorrow the workers will confront the bosses of the cleaning company about the serious issues involving their employment. Any harrassment of the workers will not be tolerated by the union, which plans on holding informational events, pickets and other actions in this case.

Sadar needs to clean up their act and pay up what belongs to the workers.

ZSP Multibranch Union, Warsaw

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ZSP has written numerous times about how the management of the Polish Post Office tried to intimidate protesting workers by using threats and by firing 4 workers active in organizing while letting the contracts of a few others lapse, refusing to renew them.

A number of these workers sued the Post Office for compensation and reinstatement and also for unpaid overtime. The Post Office is trying everything to avoid reinstatement; usually their tactics revolve around attacking the workers yet another time.

Our comrade Rafal was singled out for his active part in organizing large protests in Warsaw and was given a disciplinary dismissal under false pretexts in March 2017. On March 16, a few thousand postal workers protested for higher pay,followed by a second national demonstration in April. and a number of concrete improvements in working conditions, some of which the Post Office was forced to partially react to. Salaries have been raised, but only 25% of what the workers were demanding.

The inefficient court system does nothing to help workers fighting for reinstatement as Rafal's case has just started to by heard, 15 months later. Nonetheless, it was important to take a stand in this official process to establish the pattern of abuse in this state institution.

On November 15 the case started with the Post Office trying to pressure other workers,who they called as witness, into supporting their frame up. However, things did not go as planned. While the Post Office has claimed that there was no forced overtime, and called overtime worked “a courtesy”, the workers testified that the Post Office was understaffed and that it was impossible to do everything in an 8 hour day. Furthermore, they all testified that the workers all chipped in 40 zloties a month from their own pockets to pay for help. Somebody would have to come in – even sometimes at 2AM – to sort the mail for them before working hours, otherwise they wouldn't be able to both do the sorting and deliveries on time. They also testified that the Post Office was not keeping evidence of the real working hours.

The management tried to justify their firing under the pretext of „safety concerns”. Thanks to the court case, we were able to obtain certain documents from the Post Office as evidence. While employed, Rafal was checked by the management and the following was written:

„The actions of Rafal Czerski […] consisting of calling on postal workers to protest, his connections with the ZSP, influences unrest and as a result, there is a risk of destabilizing the functioning of the Polish Post Office."
"Rafał Czerski is a sympathizer and maybe even a member of an anarchist organization called Związek Syndykalistów Polski. He actively participates in meetings and actions agitating for raises for mailcarriers. Rafal Czerski has brought his anarchist convictions to the Polish Post Office by distributing leaflets with radical content like „Enough exploitation – Time for Raises” and by calling for organization of postal workers from below in order to win pay raises."

Such texts leave little doubt that the main purpose of his dismissal was to stop organizing in the Post Office and derail the demands for pay raises.

In typical Polish style, the next hearing is scheduled for May 30, 2019. With workers having to wait a couple of years to get reinstatement cases heard, there is no doubt that most employers who illegally dismiss workers are never held accountable. In the meanwhile, the Post Office continues its programs of using prison labour to deal with the fact that few nominally free workers want to subject themselves to those conditions.

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Strike Actions Continue at LOT Polish Airlines. For one week now, various staff have been striking and protesting. Almost 70 workers have been fired in response and the airline has prepared legal cases in an attempt to scare others against joining the protests. ZSP calls for wide-scale action against the state-owned airline. Below is the statement of the ZSP-IWA. We call on our sister organizations to spread the news and show their solidarity.

LOT Polish Airlines has forced some workers to pretend they are independent contractors and have a B2B relation, rather than be employed. This forces them to take on various forms of liability and to waive their rights to certain benefits guaranteed under the labour law. As contractors, the labour law does not apply to them.

STATEMENT:

Solidarity with LOT Polish Airlines Workers

ZSP would like to express its solidarity to the workers of PLL LOT who are facing repression from the management for taking industrial action in the struggle for improved working conditions at the airline. We absolutely condemn the actions of prezes Rafal Milczarski who fired 67 workers disciplinarily for their participation in protests and work stoppages and for his continued intimidation tactics. This includes demanding payments of between 400-800,000 zloties from pilots as a punishment. Previously the airline fired the head of one union and has filed lawsuits of 200,000 zloties against unionists for supposedly damaging the reputation of the company.

Such actions are completely deplorable. We support the demands of workers to have proper contracts and working conditions and especially the rights of the staff which is underpaid to fight for better wages.

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ZSP is very happy to announce some new, important victories in the struggle at PoloMarket, which is in its second year. First, our Rafal has won significant compensation for overtime pay. The supermarket, like many in Poland, used different methods to force more time from workers. In Rafal's case, they included not giving him breaks and failing to take into account limits which should apply to persons with disabilities.

Prior to this, several other workers from our union received overtime payments as well. Rafal's case is important because it also stresses the rights of workers with disabilities and shows that they can fight back. We point out that this category of workers is often abused by bosses who assume that, due to their precarious position, they will not be able to fight back. But as in several other struggles concerning more than 50 our of members, we have been able to show this is not the case.

PoloMarket, in truly despicable fashion, responded to the worker's initial claims by trying to bring a criminal case against Rafal. Later, they brought 2 more cases against 8 people for supposed „crimes” committed during a visit to their headquarters to demand compensation for a worker who was unfairly dismissed – despite the fact that they admitted she was right and paid the compensation. We are also happy to announce that all 3 cases have been won.

Such bullshit attempts to criminalize workers' action is just part of the normal pattern of harrassment which is often unfortunately supported by the courts and government institutions in Poland. Court cases can last for years, causing major inconvenience for workers, in addition to lost work time and other costs. Employers count on this to discourage and intimidate workers. However, ZSP has showed, once again, that we will not be intimidated and we can win.

The struggle against the violation of workers' rights continues, as do our organizing efforts and claims against the market. We expect more and more workers to get what they were cheated out of by the chain.

We thank everybody who showed their support in these cases.

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On September 22, the ZSP Warsaw general trades union took part in a demonstration called „Poland Needs Higher Wages”. Besides calling for a general increase in salaries, it reminded people of the ongoing and unfulfilled demands of Postal and Health Care workers in our union, stressing that only the consistent, self-organized actions of the workers outside the mainstream unions brought any gains in this area. Over the last 2 years, wages in the Post Office have been raised, but only to 40% of what the workers demanded. Only more decisive action can lead to victory, but the management and positions of other unions have hindered the struggle.

The union also reminded workers of other problems related to the general income of workers and living standards. It reiterated its call to fight outsourcing in the public sector and the use of various types of employment which deny workers basic entitlement such as paid vacation, which in effect, decreases the total value of their compensation.

The demonstration also called for pension reform, demanding the right to retire after 35 years worked and the reinstatement of several types of early retirement for certain unsafe and unhealthy professions. This right has been eliminated in recent years.

ZSP considers the whole pension system to be a critical disaster which will seriously impact many of those workers who started their careers after the economic transition (in 1989). This means that in the next 10-20 years, we will start to see a rapid increase in poverty amongst senior citizens. Already many of them simply cannot afford to retire. As the gurus of the turbocapitalist economy can only recommend that people put aside more money for their future, we point out that an increasing amount of people live with crippling debt or cannot even make ends meet. Simply put, with wages on the level that they are, most workers simply have nothing they can save.

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ZSP is very happy to announce that 5 years on after the beginning of a workers' conflict with the Jewish Historical Institute – or, more precisely, with its director – we have won a case brought against our comrade in yet another attempt to intimidate workers in Poland.

The court decision was very happily welcomed by both our union and non-affiliated scholars who had had to endure the actions of the director. It should be noted that the bosses often use lawsuits and criminal cases to try to keep people silent about bad working conditions or to publically denounce anti-union activity in their workplace.

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„Property is theft” goes an old anarchist saying. Many average people may not subscribe to this wisdom, especially supporters of the system which rests on private property. Although this is certainly the case in Poland, a „post-communist” country which wanted to privatize just about everything, even the most staunch defenders of privatization have to admit that many, many abuses occured. Public property and industry was swooped up for only a small fraction of its value and, as we can see in the case of housing privatization, has been outright stolen.

All of Poland knows the story. Almost a decade ago, members of our Warsaw union organized with tenants and helped bring the facts to light, about the theft of public housing, with the complicity of a wide network of civil servants, lawyers and judges. 10 years later, almost 2 dozen people have been arrested and some of these houses should be remunicipalized. Only that is not going so smoothly.

Interest in the criminal privatization process began back in 2002-2003 and came through an acquaintance from the loosely-defined alterglobalist movement. Our friend described how his tenement house was privatized by the family of the city President. We wrote 3 articles about this on the anarchist news portal, exposing the situation and the plight of the tenants. Although this story became newsworthy, it was blown over for many years. Now it is one of the most well-known examples of theft and corruption in the history of Poland.

For some years, tenants did not have a loud voice and each such story of corruption and theft of public property either went unheard or appeared somewhere deep inside the papers, only to be forgotten the next day. After forming an organization together with tenants in 2009, we organized many radical actions, occupying the City Council and trying to get our topics on the agenda. In 2010, 36 organizations – mostly comprised of organizations of particular addresses – got together to demand action from the city. Two reports were prepared: one on the bad effects of particular policies and practices on tenants, another on irregularities concerning housing privatization – or „reprivatization” as they prefer to call it.

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As ZSP prepares for its annual Congress, it looks back at victories and challenges it faced in the first half year of 2018.

The Congress, which normally takes place a little earlier in the year, is delayed due to a number of factors, including the pressures of repression for the union activity. The Union continues its campaign to improve working conditions at supermarkets, in particular, the battle with PoloMarket. Again, workers with disabilites have played a huge role in a labour campaign in our organizations, fighting for the rights allowed to them under law, but denied by many workplaces which use such workers to get subsidies and which think they cannot defend their rights. Already a direct action resulted in a worker receiving good compensation and a number of judgements were made against the company, in favor of the workers. But in order to discourage working people, bogus criminal cases have been brought by the chain – there is a case against one individual and 2 cases against 8.

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