Thursday, 11 August 2011

Finish Wages, For Polish Workers

A lot has been said recently about the effect of workers from Poland and other Central Eastern European countries entering the labour markets of Western Europe.

The far-right have targetted them as scapegoats and the government have Holland has proposed that those that are unemployed be expelled from the country. Depressingly, some within the trade union movement and on the left have jumped on this bandwagon and blamed Polish immigrants for their lack of jobs or poor working conditions. This was encompassed in the UK through the slogan "British Jobs For British Workers".

It is therefore heartening to see that trade unionists in Finland have taken another approach. The Finish Construction Workers Union has called for a boycott of a German firm that pays its Polish workers less than that allowed in Finish law (the minimum wage in Finland is 65 euro an hour.) The boycott means that members of the trade union will refuse to work for any company that pays workers less than the minimum wage.


Monday, 1 August 2011

Here Comes the Sun....

For those in Poland preparing to fly out to warmer climates (a blessed relief with the weather we've had this year) comparisons of holidays during Communism are simple.

No longer do people have to go to an office to request access to their own passport. No longer are people confined to travelling mainly within the former eastern bloc countries. Their holidays are not restricted to the camps provided by work-places. They are no longer packing their belongings on top of a 'Mały Fiat', making sure that they have their ration cards with them or working out how they will obtain a beer for the evening. No things are simpler now and people's options are wider. Travel is freedom embodied.

Yet memories of the past are always tainted by the realities of the present.The reality in today's society is that the majority of Polish society will not be going on any holiday this summer. The latest research carried out by the Polish Public Opinion Research Centre showed that in 2007 62% of Poles did not go on any holiday at all. 38% were able to take a vacation although only 17% managed to go away for more than a week. 70% of those who went on holiday did so in Poland and just 12% who went abroad travelled by plane.74% of the respondents who did not go on holiday revealed that the primary reason for not doing so as a lack of money. Research also shows that 43% of children in Poland did not go away during the summer holidays for more than one week.

Perceptions of holidays during Communism is different from this vantage point. Workplaces subsidised holidays which families could afford; children could spend weeks with their peers on organised holiday camps and the option was open to many to fly to the coast of Bulgaria or Romania, visit the lakes in Hungary, etc.

As the old Buddhist saying goes: 'For those that wear shoes, the world is covered in leather' (or something like that)

Happy Holidays :)