Greenkett is a Spanish company that produces wooden flooring. It has been existed in Debno near Steszew for 3 years. Semi-finished wooden products are coming here from Spain and go back after being transformed by us. There are 120 people working in the factory, majority of them are women. The factory works on three shifts. We work for 8 hours, all the time standing by machines. We can take only a 15 minute breaks during the whole day.
On what kind of contracts are you employed for?
Most of employees work for time-contracts determined for 7 years. We get 5.30 zl (1,40 euro) for one hour, and 8 zl (2,10 euro) for overtimes. Overtimes are not obligatory, but when we demanded a pay raise we have heard that the only way to earned more, is to take extra hours.
Why in your opinion workers rights are broken in Greenkett factory?
We haven't been told what is our range of duties, there is no lists of work and wages. There is a big pollution and noise in the hall. Earlier there was no headphones reducing din, now they gave us some. The management thinks that it will solve the problem and we will not demand health compensation. During last summer temperature on the hall reached 43 degrees - then they took away thermometers. According to the low, there mustn't be more than 28 degrees. In winter there was no heating, two years ago we worked in two jackets and caps in 8 degrees, while air-conditioning in the office cost 5 000 zl (1 300 euro). Each person who was sick longer have been immediately fired. Once one girl told to the boss that she would not work on Saturday. They told her that she didn't have to and fired her without giving any explanation. Now we earn less than on the beginning of existence of this manufacture. One year ago a Spanish owner cut our salary, then we made a strike. All people from one shift refused to work and manufacture was stopped for 5 minutes. Then a manager came, shouted at us, and we returned to work.
Have you had any problems with repressions from the management or the owner of factory after you organized this wild strike?
Before we established a trade union, the Polish members of the management (for example a production manager) had demonstrated very hostilely attitude to the whole crew. They warned us to not found a trade union. The Polish management earns from 1600 zl to 5000 zl (from 420 euro to 1300 euro), for few of them this is a first work. All the time they repeated that if we do not want to work we don't have to, because there are many volunteers waiting to do so. They also suggested that they can move a manufacture to the East. However, we heard from the management that we cannot get pay raises, because the company is investing and developing all the time. It is possible that they will open a new factory in Belchatow. They are considering also Slovakia. We think that they will not move the factory far away to the East, because costs of transport would be too high.
How did you figure out that you can establish a trade union? Did the relations between you and the management has changed after that?
A husband of one of us knows unionists from Worker's Initiative in Cegielski factory in Poznan. We wanted to do something, we heard that we must find 10 workers, who would want to establish a commission of the union. There was no problem with finding those people. Some unionists from Poznan came here and helped us with all papers. Then, step by step, new people signed up. Until now 58 people have signed. Relations in factory are much better. The management became kind, polite, they began to speak to us in a normal way. After establishment of the union we could notice many changes. Some of us have got working overalls, the rest of people will get it soon. Earlier we had to work on Saturdays, now it is only for those who want.
Your factory is strongly feminized. Have you ever had problems with a sex discrimination?
Here in the factory only about 20 men work. They work as the operators of the machines, stokers, trolley-drivers or electricians. Most of them have already got a raise, they earn about 1300 zl (340 euro), more than women. Only women work by machines and select wood. A division on better and worse is noticeable already during recruitment. Staff in huge part is made up of young women - from 18 to 25 years old. However, none of employees returned to work after maternity leave. Work is adapted to the rhythms of the machines, practically it is necessary to run by them. Young girls somehow deal with that, but older women are in the worse situation, not to mention single mothers who after work take care of their children.
How general situation of workers looks like in Steszew? Do some trade union exist here?
In general, there is no trade unions in Steszew. At least we haven't heard about them. Although this is a small village, here is no flow of information - we do not know, if rights of other workers have been violated. Average wages are on the level of 800 - 900 zl (212 - 240 euro). Lot of people went to the west countries, some of people work in Poznan. There are some factories in the area, however many people work illegally.
Thank you for the interview!