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Exploitation of Polish Workers

Translated Tuesday 21 April 2009, by Helen Robertshaw

In March 2008, there was a hunger strike among Polish workers employed by a subcontractor of the Queen Mary builder in the port of Saint-Nazaire. Recruited by Elbe, these workers had neither employment contracts nor pay slips, and were required to work 50 hours per week.

Added to this intolerable situation was the scandal of unpaid salaries. Supported by the CGT labour union, the Polish workers of Saint-Nazaire had to stop eating in order to attract the attention of the authorities. Their struggle gave rise to a joint campaign by the CGT and the Polish trade union Solidarnosc.

Although they finally won their battle, the problem of temporary workers remains unsolved. Until the European institutions adopt a directive that guarantees the protection of salaried employees, other cases will crop up in the European social news.

But the private sector is not the only one guilty of this frenzied exploitation. In 2006, the case of Polish workers employed at the EDF power plant in Porcheville (Yvelines) sparked indignation. Employed by Polish company Zrew – a subcontractor of Alstom – the Poles worked at the EDF site for 45-48 hours per week for a monthly payment of €300-400.

Again, the CGT helped its foreign colleagues to take all the necessary steps and raised awareness about their struggle. All they were asking for was equal treatment with their French co-workers. This is a simple demand for justice that the European institutions have not yet delivered.

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