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Auchan against its workers in Ukraine

Workers of the AUCHAN mall reveal cases of serious workers' rights violation. In reality a shift in the mall lasts from 16 up to 20 hours per day. Workers who don't want to subordinate are threatened with dismissals.

AUCHAN, the French giant, has opened its first mall in Kiev at the end of March 2008. At 15 thousand square metres of the surface over 500 workers were employed. However, the European logo of the company didn't mean European working conditions by no means - claim the employed.

"We were forced to organize ourselves in a trade union because of an attitude of the French and Ukrainian management to the staff" - says Aleksander Ruzhinskyi, a leader of an initiative group of the trade union, "Labour defence" - "It was a scandal that a working day lasts not 8, but 20 hours. Sometimes you had to work literally entire twenty-four hours. Apart from that there was a whole mass of other problems. For example, the company was supposed to provide workers with dinners. But till the time of the official opening of the mall they didn't serve it. Then, they started to serve a very poor meal, for which you need to pay extra money".

According to Ruzhinskyi, many workers were employed to AUCHAN without a valid labour book or insurance card. As a result - they turned out to be deprived of all workers' rights. Students were being employed only for one workday, which lasted 15 hours. "An outrageous accident happened a few months ago. A student working at a machine for cutting cheese, cut off his four fingers. After that, he was given 100 hryvnyas (14 Euro) to his pocket and they led him out of the company suggesting that he probably "fell down on bottles" - recalls the chairman of the union.

After that the workers decided to create a trade union. Colleagues from the "METRO Cash&Carry" supermarket shared their experience at that field, as "Labour defence" union was established there many days ago. An AUCHAN female worker, who wishes to remain anonymous in fear of repression, says: "An the beginning there were 6 of us. Soon new workers began to sign in, the union started to expand. But only after a few days we already felt a strong pressure on us, although we didn't even manage to express our demands. One of the union member was forced to agree on dismissal, and other four - to write a statement of withdrawal from the union".

Two weeks after establishing the union also Aleksander Ryzhinskyi was laid off: "They accused me that I hadn't worked 20 hours, but only 16. All these hours I was at work, but people, looking into my eyes, signed the protocol, that I wasn't there... HR-manager, Olga Vovk, showed the greatest enthusiasm in the fight against the trade union". Now the "Labour defence" is demanding restoring Aleksander to job in court.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Vovk refused to take a stand on that topic, using recommendations of the management as an excuse. In the central AUCHAN office they also refused to comment the story. We only managed to establish that the total silence on this matter was recommended by the French management. Therefore, it is impossible to get to know the attitude of the employer, and also to verify the reports of the union.

"Trade unions are usually associated with some industrial giants. Therefore, the mobilization of workers of the service industry was a surprise for many people" - says a leader of the Kiev committee of "Labour defence", Oleg Viernik. He claims that the reason for this should be sought in the 90s - " Then the heavy industry was collapsing, job in a factory was not respected and it was poorly paid. And the go-ahead youth went to the trade and service industry. Today these people start to unite to defend their rights"- claims Viernik.

Andriej Movchan, "24" (24.ua)

OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza
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