Human Rights House Foundation

Human Right House Network

Poland: Employees against supermarkets

Friday, 21 January 2005

Violation of employees’ rights by stores and supermarkets seems to be an increasing trend in Poland. Assisted by the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, employees now demand compensation.

There are more and more signals concerning the violation of employees’ rights by stores and supermarkets in Poland. The employees demand compensation from companies mainly for: overtime, unused holiday and dismissals contrary to the regulations. The first of such lawsuits was brought by Mrs. Bozena Lopacka against the company Biedronka, which belongs to the Portuguese chain Jeronimo Martins Distribution (JMD).

Mrs. Lopacka demands the payment of arrears from the chain Biedronka, her former employer, for overtime, being forced to work for a dozen or so hours a day, and having to carry enormous loads without using specialist equipment. In September 2004 the Labour Court in Elblag announced its verdict and adjudged the payment of 35 thousand PLN for 2,6 thousand hours of overtime. Following this verdict, other employees began suing Biedronka. The wronged parties also established an Association of Victims of Jeronimo Martins. The company itself does not admit to having violated the employees’ rights and has lodged an appeal.

Last Wednesday the Court of Appeal in Gdansk judged that the case requires reconsideration and the overtime needs to be precisely documented.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights entered the case, taking place before the Court of Appeal in Gdansk, as a representative of society and prepared a legal opinion. Adam Bodnar, who is handling the case at the HFHR, says that the case is one of precedence and contributes to an increase in the rights awareness among employees, as well as the enforcement of those rights.

Apart from Biedronka, lawsuits have also been brought against the following chains: Carrefour (70 cases), Auchan (30), Geant (30), Tesco (around 20), Real (10), Leclerc (2). Construction goods markets, such as Ikea, Obi, Castorama, Praktiker and Leroy Merlin, also have a couple of cases on their record.

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