Monday 2 March 2009


Last month we were informed of the case of a Polish worker who had major troubles with his employer, a temporary work agency called EUROCONTRACT, and the Polish firm Groenflex. Michalek was sent to work in Holland by Groenflex a work agency in Opole in December. He was supposed to be picking vegetables and had a contract for 78 weeks.

The contract he signed in Poland was only a preliminary one; when in Holland he had to sign a different one, with the firm EUROCONTRACT. Instead of working picking vegetables, Michalek was sent to work in a shipyard, without any special training. In a few days, he was sent to clean chemicals without protective clothing. He lost consciousness and was rushed to the cardiology department of the hospital.

Instead of taking any care of their employee, EUROCONTRACT simply terminated the contract with Michalek. He returned home to Poland. Then he found out that he owed the hospital almost 3000 euros.

In the past month, we have been investigating the situation and have made contact with others who have been misled, abused or had their rights violated by EUROCONTRACT/GROEN FLEX. Such abuse most probably concerns hundreds of workers; there are already dozens of documented complaints against the firm. Some workers have contacted the prosecutors office or tried to start lawsuits in Poland but found that Groen Flex was not a party to the employment contract and a case would have to be lodged in the Netherlands.

Our Preliminary Findings

1. The relation between Groenflex and Eurocontract is unclear and many workers are unclear who their employer is. Many employees believe this is the exact same company. In Holland they maintain a joint website. The system of recruitment through Groenflex is misleading.

2. The preliminary contact is misleading for most employees.

3. Promises made in Opole concerning work duties, location of employment, living quarters, work hours and wages are often not kept in Holland.

4. Workers are carted to different worksites. Often they are not informed and do not know the name of the end-user emplyer.

5. Eurocontract and Groenflex has ignored some of their employees in cases where the end-user employer has endagered the health and safety of the employees.

6. Eurocontract has broken and terminated contracts with no reason, notice or compensation.

7. Eurocontract has failed on numerous occasions to ensure that end-user employers provide proper health and safety training and equipment.

8. Workers have complained that both companies have misinformed them, misled them or not properly informed them of their rights.

9. Both companies have failed to respond to employee complaints and concerns.

10. Workers have poor legal recourse when they are abused; they must bring their cases in Holland which dissuades most from taking legal action.

11. Workers are often not provided with full-time work, although they are promised this in Poland and often have days without any work.

12. Workers are housed in a living quarters which inspired many complaints including weekly controls, curfews and searching personal items in the Wateringen hotel and having the cost of meals automatically deducted from wages regardless of whether you want them or not.

13. Some people who signed contracts for several months of work were sent home early because there was no work for them. There have been people who have gone to Holland, stayed a week without work and then been told to go home. They were not given compensation.

14. There have been reports of people sent to Holland even without a preliminary agreement, which is against the law.

15. Reports of late payments, especially of first payments, 2-3 months late.

Our Demands

1. Cooperation of Groenflex and Eurocontract in the case of Michalek for obtaining compensation for his hospital bill and all compensation he is seeking from the end-user employer and employer.

2. Ensuring that all workers receive proper health and safety training, equipment and care from their end-user employers.

3. Providing perspective employees with the final contract to be signed in Poland, not Holland. The contract should be signed with the Polish legal entity, not the Dutch one.

4. The job description should be clearly stated in the contract. Workers should be compensated should this work not be available.

5. Contracts should not be terminated early without reason. Failure to provide employment should be treated as breach of contract on the part of the employer and should require compensation to the employee.

6. All payments should be made on time, to the bank of the employees choice or in cash. Employees should not be forced to open accounts in a specific bank.

7. All employees should be informed of the name of the end-user employer where they are working.

8. In the case of industrial accident or other unfortunate circumstances, the agency should help the worker obtain compensation from the end-user employer.

9. The agency should make sure that employee insurance has started before their first day on the job. Employees should receive evidence of being insured from the agency when insurance payments are deducted from their wages.

10. The agency in Opole must stop misleading potential employees by making false promises or misrepresenting the work to be performed or other aspects of the employment.

The attitude of Groen Flex is abhorrable; when Michalek contacted them about his problems he was treated rudely and summarily told to "go to court". Eurocontract may expect legal problems - such disregard is not acceptable. In addition, we will do everything we can now to inform potential employees about your unfair and illegal practices, to dissuade them from using your agencies and to encourage current or former employees to organize themselves against this abuse. You can expect trouble from us. Although we know we are not able to match Eurocontract or Groenflex in the amount of damage done to wreck people's lives, we will try to give them the fight you deserve, They think they are untouchable, but they can be touched, pushed and even wrecked.

ZSP, Union of Syndicalists

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