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(en) Polannd, WORKERS' INITIATIVE: "We don't want to harm anyone - we just want to get the money back" - Club Punto is still indebted to former employees [machine translation]

Date Sat, 26 Oct 2019 08:23:33 +0300

In May, an employee who did not receive remuneration for work at the Poznan club Punto came to the Employee Initiatives. This is the place where drag kings and drag queens perform, important figures in LGBT culture. Punto functions as a club friendly for people with different sexual orientation - but is it friendly for employees? The arrears towards the person who came to us were repaid only after our intervention. We thought the problem was one-off, but in September more people came forward who also did not receive a salary. We talk about Punto with Pawel, Justyna and Darek. In the photo in front of the club they hold pay orders from the Labor Inspectorate, obliging the owner of the premises to pay overdue remuneration and compensation for a total amount of PLN 27 thousand. zl.

How did you work at Punto?

Darek: I have worked as a bartender since the club's opening, i.e. from September 2018. I finished my work in June 2019. It wasn't easy: you have to do everything to satisfy your clients, you work mainly at night. However, I was very satisfied, I could meet many people and I wanted them to be happy in our club.

Justyna: I was also employed from September 2018 to June 2019. I worked as a bartender help, supplied glass and ice, refilled refrigerators, cleaned, washed everything, collected empty dishes from the tables.

Pawel: I did practically everything: I had the duties of a manager, I stood behind the bar, I worked on inventory, invoices, goods, cash register, I took care of guests. It was written in my contract that I was a manager, although I had the same rate as everyone else. We were getting the same money. And then we didn't get them anymore.

On the 10th of the month, nothing was credited to your account?

Pawel: All in all, we never got a salary on time and we had to ask for money each time. Our private commitment was not important to the boss. Larger problems began in February, when the owner partner stopped dealing with financial matters, and then withdrew. We received a salary for February at the end of March. The bosses made meetings. We were told that the club is insolvent, that there is no money.

Have you agreed to work without pay?

Pawel: We were hoping that the situation would improve in a moment. We saw a really big development of the club, but we didn't have any insight into the documents. We thought the club was making a living. Each of us worked behind the bar, we saw what the orders are and what turnover.

Darek: It lasted until the end of June. Already in April 5 or 6 people left. New ones were not employed, so the rest worked more. We have heard weekly declarations that there will be money in a moment. We lived practically only from tips, but we did not tell our customers, we still hoped for improvement. Each of us cared about this club, because we built it from the beginning: we removed rubble, painted the walls, Pawel even worked at the construction site. When the club flooded, we cleaned after hours. We spent more time there than at home. That's why we agreed to it. In June, it was again promised that the company would regulate everything: we were assured that they would take a loan to finance previous payments. But a lower loan was granted, so we were repaid only partially in March and April. We no longer wanted to work for free.

What steps did you take?

Justyna: In June we were at the National Labor Inspectorate, we filed a complaint. We terminated the employment contract because of a serious breach by the employer of obligations towards employees.

Darek: I wrote to the boss a dozen times and asked when we would receive the money. In June I got the answer that I know that the company is insolvent, but the boss is doing everything to regulate it and maybe it will be explained in days. We have October, nothing has been explained. We have sent immediate payment requests. Unanswered. The inspector asked us to try to write again. We suggested paying the debt in installments.

Justyna: While we were still working, we suggested to the boss that we could receive even days, because we didn't have a flat. For March and April we didn't get a normal salary, but an advance payment, which we had to ask for. We have screenshots of conversations, where we are asking for PLN 100, PLN 500.

How do you assess the effects of the Labor Inspection control?

Pawel: The control was not very effective. Punto got a pay order with immediate enforceability. In response to the complaint, we received confirmation from the Inspection. Based on the documents presented, it was found that the employer did not pay Justyna 7,700 PLN, Darek 5200 PLN and me over 14 thousand. PLN gross, including compensation. Weeks passed and nothing happened. The inspector can be contacted only one day a week, at certain times. The inspector spread her hands and said that she could do nothing, she did not have a firearm, she could not put a knife to her throat and make her pay. That's what she used. For me it's a joke.

Darek: The inspector said we should try to get along somehow, because she can't do anything. We were to wait or write a request for a second check, because the more complaints, the faster the process can be accelerated. We wrote the second complaint and nothing accelerated. A second check is in progress.

Have you thought about a labor court?

Pawel: Yes, but only now we are getting back on our feet, we have a new job. Paying debts to friends is our priority, we can't afford a lawyer.

You applied to the Employee Initiative. The union tried to mediate, but your employer, initially willing to talk, suddenly broke off contact. In this situation, we are considering protests. Do you count on support from your environment?

Darek: I want to think that if someone is hurt, then he is behind him. We think that we did our job well. After leaving we got a lot of news that we are missing, that we were the heart of this club. It hurts the most. I hope that LGBT will support us. We repeated from the beginning that we only want to recover our money, we do not want to harm anyone. That is why we have been silent for a long time. The club has a great idea: it is a place where performers, drag queens can show themselves and feel safe. We fought for it from the very beginning. We wanted the club to survive, be an asylum. But since we didn't feel safe there, I think this place is not so sure.

Pawel: Our parents also said they would come if there was a picket outside the club. They will stand with us and fight.

Do you have any expectations besides paying back the arrears?

Darek: We think changes are needed. People work in Punto. I don't know if they have salary problems, I don't know them. I wish it was obvious that they would work for decent money. This is a big club, it put a lot of effort into it, I would like it to survive and let the employees feel good there and the employer fulfills his duties. And I would like Poland to have institutions that can do more frequent checks and be able to draw consequences from violations. Now it is over and the inspection is over. I want to make an appeal: many people knew us, they know what kind of people we are. They know that we never acted to the detriment of the club, we always tried to put everything on the last button, we had ideas. Many people knew that this is our home, so I turn to their consciences. We would not only like to solve our problem, but also a more general problem: that gastronomy finally moves forward, that you can work in accordance with the law and that people be treated fairly. We are determined. We tried everything: talks, settlements, appealing to institutions. It didn't help, so please support. And if we don't get overdue salaries, we are ready to stand in front of Punto with the picket. We no longer have other ideas on how to recover what is ours.

/ interviewed by Agnieszka Mróz

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