Saturday, 24 July 2010

Action in Carrefour

On July 24 there was a protest in a Carrefour supermarket in Warsaw against the humiliating treatment of workers imposed by tbe management. The protest was directly related to the introduction of the "red dot" system where employees have to stand on red dots in the middle of the crowded market to speak to their managers. It came out that workers even had to stand there if they wanted to take a toilet break.
Workers protested that this was ridiculous since sometimes that even had to wait 5-10 minutes for a supervisor to come and give them permission to leave their work station for a toilet break. This time to get permission is a lot longer than just going to the toilet, so it actually makes the break much longer. However, if an employee goes without permission, s/he could be fired. The workers feel this is done especially to discourage them from asking for breaks.

Many people responded to this news quite negatively. A Facebook group was formed calling for a boycott. Members of ZSP sabotaged the red dots and produced propaganda stickers and called on people to protest to Carrefour. Carrefour later tried to claim that the rule about standing on the dot to go to the toilet was just an "incorrect interpretation" of individual store managers,
In the meanwhile, workers have been saying that often they are simply not allowed at all to take a toilet break. We became aware that at least in once instance, one employee developed health complications due to this practice.

On July 24, more than a dozen people went into the Carrefour carrying red dots and paraded around the supermarket. As the protest was announced, and Carrefour found out about it, they specially hired extra plainclothes security, brought in more security guards (either from other shifts or shops) and called the police. In total, at least 30 hired guards were following the protestors and harrassing them. A few French people from Carrefour management also appeared.

During the protest we heard how guards were instructed to keep an eye on and out for Carrefour workers. If any were to join us (or perhaps even talk to us), they would be fired. Of course we have been aware of such terror tactics in the shop since we know and talk to employees there regularly. It also turned out that a few employees said good words to the protesters.

People in general also expressed their support of the action. We particularly enjoyed the comment of one passerby whi said "The people asked for capitalism, they got it. They believe in God too, so let them pray to him now."
Despite the heavy security presence, the management apparently decided it would be a much worse scene if the security started to beat us and drag us out, so we just ignored what they were saying to us and carried on the protest. People from  ZSP and MS took part.