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(en) Poland, ZSP: This is not the time to be afraid. Is the moment to act! [machine translation]
Sat, 28 Mar 2020 10:14:53 +0300
The Union of Polish Trade Unionists (ZSP) has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by calling for different forms of action by the working
class. ---- He is planning a mobilization that is to begin as soon as possible to meet massively in public. ---- First, it has pointed out
that workers who want (and must) stay home must do so. In Poland this is protected even in the Labor Code - however, it does not protect
many workers due to abuse of civil contracts (self-employment) by their employers; Workers with 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 have
misinformed them of their rights. The most common threat is that, due to lack of business, the workplace will suffer economically and will
have to cut staff. This implies that workers will be dismissed for exercising their right to refuse to work in such a situation.
One place where ZSP has been active for several years is the Postal Service and this is one of the sites that the government thinks should
work during the pandemic. ZSP has been calling for action at the Postal Service and informing workers of their rights, while directors are
misinforming them, stating that if they want to leave, they will have to be unpaid or leave their vacation period. (which is subject to
approval). Right now it is difficult to judge the level of rejection of work and, ironically, some workers feel that it is a kind of social
duty to serve the public at this time.
In fact, some members of our union are out working with the public right now (taking the necessary precautions and actions towards social
responsibility) - in health care, bringing food to people who have isolated themselves or who have been sent home, handing out masks to the
workers and trying to put pressure on the municipal officials.
The Warsaw union is trying to organize an action on the earliest possible date to confront the government, which has not done enough to
combat the phenomenon of "junk contracts", despite all its verbiage towards the labor movement. When the situation allows for a mass
meeting, he will call on precarious workers to protest the situation. Affiliates of that union who are also engaged in organizing tenants
have called for the municipality to freeze the rents of people who are adversely affected by the situation (the city president has angered
people for offering first aid to those who rent business premises, and still nothing to families). Although the government has promised some
help to the workers,
The union released two communiqués last week, one in specific response to the government crisis proposal. The crisis proposal helps
companies in various ways and assumes the burden of paying a small one-time payment to the millions of workers who have self-employment
contracts. As the union has pointed out many times throughout its existence, the use of civil contracts is often a fraudulent way of
sidestepping the responsibilities of labor contracts and this state of affairs is passively supported by the state institutions that are
supposed to they must control this. The State Labor Inspectorate is ineffective and often blinds abuses of business owners, as do courts
that have even openly ignored the law to protect company profits. The union has appealed to the government in this public bailout, arguing
that when it receives a request for payment of this aid, it should gather information on which companies are using fraudulent contracts. In
the union's opinion, we should 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 use this income to
pay workers. This is something the state, which has facilitated corporate abuse of civil contracts over the past three decades, does not
want to do.
Below are translations of the first ZSP statement on the Coronavirus situation and the second statement, which is a direct response to the
government's plan. ZSP joins the Alternativa union in Poland demanding that concrete action be taken against junk contracts, but goes one
step further by offering a concrete proposal for workers to provide information on the nature of their jobs.
The first ZSP statement was aimed at stimulating public debate on the problems of millions of workers not covered by the Labor Code, who
would not be entitled to compensation in time of forced labor stoppage. According to the law, in such a situation, workers with normal work
contracts receive income despite not even being working, but this is not the case for workers with self-employment contracts. This issue has
been widely debated in Poland and the government responded by offering a small one-time payment to some (but not all) of these workers. Nor
does it offer any special help to those who are on the gray market or unemployed. The second statement is a response to the government's plans.
FIRST COMMUNIQUE FROM ZSP
Let's fight for our health: we have to cure the disease of poverty and precariousness.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased public awareness of our health and the risk of transmitting the virus. ZSP wants unbeatable health
for all the workers who are still doing important work for us - among them the health workers, but also others who are often minute workers
like supermarket cashiers, farmers, bakeries, food industry workers, delivery men. food, cooks, public transport workers, taxi drivers,
etc., etc. We know that without you, urban life cannot function normally.
However, ZSP wishes to underline that, for years, society has passively accepted that many of these people work in very precarious
conditions - often without stable employment contracts, for very low wages. For years, workers (and indeed, mainly many women workers) in
health services, such as nurses, emergency health technicians or cleaners, have been fighting for better working conditions. We believe that
the majority of society agrees that they are entitled to decent working conditions and a good salary for such hard work. However, we have
not done enough to show those in power that we demand increased spending on health. The powerful are trying to make up the tragic situation
we are really facing. Actually, People in Poland are dying from the collateral effects of poverty, such as a lack of adequate food or
unhealthy living conditions. We live in a situation where older citizens have to choose between buying their medicines or paying rent, and
millions of workers have precarious jobs, where they often work beyond their physical capabilities, without paid vacations or sick leave.
For years, the ZSP has been reminding people that many people go to work every day because their bosses force them. They have no paid sick
leave and are always just a few weeks away from starvation and homelessness. Among those who frequently work while ill are restaurant
workers, and this puts both them and those who visit their restaurants at risk. Restaurant customers often pay a lot to eat out, but this
does not mean that restaurant owners take care of their workers.
In the current situation, we know that many workers simply cannot afford to miss two or more weeks of work. They have to pay the rent, repay
the bank loans, and cover many other expenses. We call on the government to finally enact legislation to stop the pathology of junk
contracts and precarious working conditions - all the more so considering that many of these workers are fictitiously employed with these
types of contracts and have the right to be in contracts. of regulated employment. We also need a Special Act on compensation for these
workers and victims of unemployment - (multiple) payments to workers with civil contracts who have lost their income due to unemployment at
work and also including those workers whose contracts will end in this period. . We call for everyone to support workers who decide to fight
for their rights. Write to companies that you know are hiring people with junk contracts. We encourage workers to catch up on their rights
and to fight to be recognized as workers with an employment contract.
ZSP will support those workers who want to actively fight for their rights. Join us and show that you don't want this junk contract
pathology to continue!
A few days after this statement, the government announced a Special Act. The government recognized the scale of people with junk contracts
(something obvious) and offered them a single payment of 80% of the minimum wage, without deducting taxes (equivalent to 328 euros). The
union saw this as a way to falsely convince the public that it is taking the problem seriously, without actually doing anything that is
minimally sufficient. Firstly, because workers with normal employment contracts will receive 80 percent of their normal salary and also an
additional first and second payment because these payments will last for the duration of the work stoppage, not once. Second, large numbers
of these people are not employed at this time (their contracts ended) and it is unclear whether these people will be covered. In third
place, They are not going to pay anyone who started a contract after March 1, although many people with junk contracts must sign a new
contract each and every month of the year. This "help" is a pittance for the workers. At the same time, the government has offered much more
significant aid to companies.
SECOND COMMUNIQUE FROM ZSP
The garbage jobs crisis - we need firm action
The situation of the crisis of workers with garbage contracts has been increasing over the years. Now you can no longer sweep the problem
and hide it under the carpet. We need a firm action plan.
Low-income people who have lost their jobs due to the epidemic and quarantine should receive aid. We do not accept the idea that this aid is
only 80 percent of the minimum wage. No salary should be lower, not even guaranteed income these days. We also do not accept that this aid
is limited to a single payment. We do not know how long this situation will last. The government has nothing to offer to people who have
lost their jobs (or whose junk contracts were simply not extended) due to the pandemic.
The government agreed that only contractors who have signed contracts before March 1 will be eligible for the aid. Why? Do you ignore the
fact that some companies even sign new contracts monthly with these workers?
The coronavirus pandemic crisis should be used primarily to address the unhealthy situation of junk contract workers who often, in fact,
carry out work under the same conditions as people with normal employment contracts. The situation should be used to compel companies to
create normal jobs and abandon this traditional form of accepted fraud.
We do not yet have any concrete information on how the government intends to pay these people, but if they have to request payment, it is an
opportunity to check if these workers are not really entitled to a normal employment contract. In such a request, the government could
include questions to be completed by workers such as:
1. Have you worked in the same company
a) less than a year (in that case, how many months)
b) 1-2 years
c) more than 2 years
d) more than 5 years
2. Did you carry out the work for your employer under his supervision * and at a place and time determined by him?
(Translator's note: these questions have been asked taking into account the provisions of the Labor Code)
(*) Supervision does not have to be direct nor does it mean that they have to tell you each specific thing you have to do, nor does it mean
that you are in physical presence or in the same location as the supervisor / employer.
If the worker answers affirmatively to question 2, it means that an employment relationship existed and, according to art. 22 paragraph 1 of
the Labor Code, any contract signed with the employer must be legally considered as an employment contract, regardless of the form of the
contract that has actually been signed.
If it turns out that this job had the characteristics of an employment contract or that this job lasted more than a year, this case should
automatically be investigated. The Inspection must have the legal capacity to change the agreement to an employment contract if it meets the
requirements stipulated by the Labor Code. Additionally, these companies that violated the Labor Code using junk contracts when they were
legally required to offer labor contracts, should be excluded from any anti-crisis subsidies charged to the state budget.
The government is currently working on amendments to the Labor Code. Unfortunately they do not foresee any serious changes for workers with
work contracts (translation: the most common form of fictitious civil contract in Poland). We know that many workers who carry out the same
work as those who have labor contracts are with this type of contract and, therefore, they are denied some important labor rights, which is
particularly evident in times of crisis like the one we are going through.
The epidemic has clearly shown how necessary it is to make radical changes to the Labor Code and the powers and actions of the authorities.
The legal loopholes that some companies use to deny workers their rights must be filled and more serious penalties are needed against
companies that use junk contracts.
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