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ZSP Against Wage Theft

This year, the annual IWA Week of Action against Unpaid Wages will be held from October 16-22. ZSP will be participating in a number of ways, including a direct action, an informational campaign and open advisories.

(Information on some past actions of the union in English can be found here: or

Since these articles have been published, we have held numerous successful actions against unpaid wages. The most notable concern the largest chain of convenience stores in Poland, Zabka. (See, for example, here: With the Zabka chain we see very widespread incidents of abuse, perhaps on an unprecented scale in this country. The chain currently has approximately 9000 stores in Poland and while some of them offer normal work contracts, many do not even give workers any contracts at all. In the situation with Zabka, every worker that has taken action to receive their wages instead of giving up has been able to receive them. This is already more than a dozen in the past 2-3 years. However, we know this is only the tip of the iceberg because, despite logic, there are many out there that are robbed but don't do anything about it.

Another wage theft situation which we recently won was with Granos bookseller. The affected worker received a quite significant sum of money. This was our second victory against this wage thief and we know that there were other victims. This situation seriously affected his business to the point where he needs to shut it down. Good riddance to thieving bosses!

What are we Doing This Year?

This year we will have a direct action and informational action at SWPS University in Warsaw. Some serious incidents of wage theft have occurred there in a cafe on campus. Of course we will try to get this money and call for a boycott of the cafe until they stop their practices of not paying overtime and making late payments or even not paying at all.

Unfortunately, cafes and restaurants are some of the worst abusers when it comes to paying less than the minimum wage, using casual contacts, not paying overtime, making illegal deductions from the wages, etc.etc. Many of the workers there may be in their first jobs and a very large segment are Ukrainians, who sometimes are employed for subminimum wages.

As far as our informational action, during May Day we published a booklet with advice, especially when working on trash contracts. We will try to spread information about this and about how to use direct action to the students on the campus. We suspect that many of them may currently be working in a vulnerable position themselves.

In our experience, taking direct action works in most cases. However, there are a few very stubborn individuals who figure that if they don't pay, we will give up. Sometimes it does happen that workers get worn down but we prefer never to give up and, for this reason, there have been actions that lasted for some time. As a last resort, they might even have to be resolved in a legal way. During the week of action we will also be supporting some workers still fighting against wage theft at Tumiraj, a kindergarten which did not pay a number of workers. So far, only one of the workers received some money she was owed but other workers decided to pursue legal action so we will be supporting this and reminding people of this incident. Although the direct actions did not bring all the results we wanted (due to the fact that the boss manipulated and changed the legal entity, thinking he'd get away with this), we think it is important to keep attention on this situation, to keep people informed about what kind of boss this is, so that they avoid him and his kindergarten.

In addition to this, in Wroclaw there will be special advisory hours all week for people who were victims of wage theft.

More On Wage Theft in Poland

There is no lack of articles claiming that Poland is one of Europe's
economic success stories, with a very low unemployment rate. However, such articles never take into account the actual welfare of the workers – whether these jobs are stable or even allow people to pay for their basic needs such as food or housing. The current economic situation is one where a small percentage of people are quite comfortable but where a much larger part of the population suffer from labor precarity.

In Poland, there are different types of employment and only a Work Contract ensures a workers certain rights such as paid holiday and sick leave, as well as giving protection under the labor law. Millions of people work on some type of casual contractual basis and another group of people have no contracts at all. Besides losing vacation and paid sick leave, these people don't have payments made into the social security system, robbing them of their future pensions.

Many of these casual employment arrangements in fact, by law, should be considered normal Work Contracts. This is a huge problem that society and especially the government has known about for decades but has done practically nothing about since it makes the cost of employment cheaper for the bosses – but it robs benefits from workers. A week before elections in this country and this huge problem does not even get mentioned. All political parties concentrate on divide and conquer politics, focusing on issues such as migration. Millions of people are getting screwed by their bosses but are being led to believe that their biggest problem is some refugees should live among us.

False casual employment (where a full Work Contract should apply) is, very frankly, wage theft, and quite significant, as the normal vacation entitlement is more than 5 weeks.

This problem requires more widespread solutions, even legislative measures and legal instruments which workers can use. However, we see that in individual cases, direct action can counter even such forms of wage theft. There have been a couple of dozen cases already where, when fighting for unpaid wages, we have included the stolen benefits in our demands from the bosses and have won this.

Our union will continue to fight against the illegitimate use of trash contracts and the systemic theft of benefits as one of our key points. When dealing with wage theft, we will continue to insist, wherever possible, that these stolen benefits be also compensated. In this respect, we are the only union in Poland that has managed to win the stolen benefits and, as far as we know, although this is a huge problem, we are the only ones still talking about it and taking action as we can.

Page of the International Week against Unpaid Wages: