Pracujesz na umowie śmieciowej? Możemy pomóc!


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.


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".


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.


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.


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:


The mass protests of postal workers in 2017 coordinated by ZSP and a network of workers outside of the mainstream unions was met by some repression but also brought a few concessions to the workers and promises of improved working conditions. However, most of the workers' postulates were not fulfilled, leaving them dissatisfied. After some months of recovery, workers again have started to mobilize and again the Post Office has issued a number of heavy-handed threats.

Comrades from ZSP have been mobilizing. On January 29, a representative of ZSP delivered a list of demands to the Post Office central in Warsaw on behalf of the network and on January 30, a picket was held in front of a court in Wroclaw in defense of Zbigniew Trochimiak, a postman from ZSP who had been fired from his job for union organizing after 36 years working in the Post Office.


Cleaners at a refugee center near Warsaw have scored a major victory, having received payments for all their demands. The workers were employed at Debak refugee center through a firm called Sadar but not all of them had proper contracts and thus did not receive proper vacation, sick pay or social security payments. In December, the workers, organized in ZSP, decided to take action, confronting the boss and demanding both payment for everything they would have been entitled to under a proper contract and direct employment through the center instead of working through an outside company. At first the company reacted by hiring a lawyer to threaten ZSP and by putting pressure on the workers, but they did not give up. In late December, they decided to hold a picket in front of the company office, which happened to be located in the private residence of one of the owners. During the picket, the workers read out how much money they were owed and posted the demands. The owners then called to set up negotiations for the next day in which they promised to pay everything and informed the workers that they gave up the contract for cleaning the center.

The agreement was that all parties would meet after the holidays and after New Years', the workers were in fact paid everything they were owed. The union is very happy that nobody backed down and the conflict was won through these actions.

ZSP again points out that such abuses are common and calls on public institutions to give up outsourcing jobs which can be done through direct employment. We also point out that the same company has won other public tenders and problems exist in other places they provide cleaning services. Public and private institutions that use such services should pay much more attention to what is going on with the people working there through outside companies.

We are glad that this victory can show other workers that they needn't be afraid to stand up and fight for their rights. So many employers abuse the fact that people are so desperate for work and that the system turns a blind eye on cheating workers. It's time to put an end to this! Time to organize!


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.


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).


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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