Monday, July 20, 2009

The following item is from the Polish Union of Syndicalists, the ZSP.
New Campaign: Was Your Flat a Work Camp?:‏
A group of Chinese workers is stranded in Warsaw after not being paid for construction work. The chain of legal responsibility is not 100% clear as each agent and subcontracting agent they dealt with are trying to pass on the responsibility for paying them. But in this tangled web, we mustn't forget the construction company which owns the building sites.
JW Construction is the largest residential developer in Poland. (It also has business abroad, for example in Russia.) Despite the financial crisis and a huge drop in the sale of flats, the company has record profits. This is partially because of policies of hiring cheaper and cheaper labour through subcontractors.
ZSP found that the Chinese stranded here worked on JW sites and, besides not getting paid, did not have proper safety equipment. JW, like all firms hiring subcontractors, will claim that it has no responsibility towards the people building on their sites, because ultimately this is the obligation of the subcontractor. But we do not agree that they have no responsibility. For this reason, we've decided not only to take action against the subcontractor, but to go directly to the main beneficent of the "work camp system" - the construction company JW.
JW has a rather checkered past: it has clear connections with members of the political elite and has used their influence to get lots of favours. A former Prime Minister is on the supervisory board of the company. In the past there were many problems with this firm; the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection even found that they had many illegal clauses in their consumer contracts and had cheated purchasers of flats. There have also been many complaints against the quality of their construction work.
We therefore decided on a campaign connected to this company. ZSP will be organizing pickets and leafleting at their sales points with the slogan "Was Your Flat a Work Camp?" It will partially be directed towards consumers, who, more than with the work conditions, will probably be concerned about whether these flats are even safe. It is one way to pressure the company. We will be demanding that they guarantee that all people working on their sites are paid, insured and receive all proper health and safety training and equipment.
We have little faith that anybody in the government will check this company. Furthermore, we believe the state is also a guilty party since they did everything to make it easier for firms to hire workers from around the world, but do absolutely nothing to ensure that they are not exploited in Poland.
The law also allows foreign companies to "delegate" workers to Poland, meaning that a Polish company can pay a foreign one and then claim they had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not that person was paid. In the most scandalous instance of abuse of such anti-worker laws, the government of North Korea contracted out slave labour to Polish companies.The state is perfectly aware of the fact that Chinese workers sent to JW Construction sites were not being paid; many had left or were kicked out of work there (for demanding their pay) and some groups of them were eventually deported. Yet nothing is done to ensure that their capitalist cronies at JW use paid labour at the sites.We will demand changes in the law regarding foreign workers and demand that the Work Inspectorate check that such workers are actually paid - but we do not count on these institutions which serve the capitalists. Therefore we will try to at least make pressure through direct action.More to follow.
Background on the situation of the workers:

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