About 50 Chinese workers are camped out in front of the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw. They did not receive any pay for three months, eventually went on strike and were fired.
The situation of the approximately 50 workers camped out in front of the Chinese Embassy is not unique. There are at least 400 others in a similar situation.
The workers were recruited in Eastern China to work in construction in Warsaw. This group of workers came from three agencies: Fujian Huamin Overseas Employment, Heyly Overseas Employment and an agent called Lin Baotang. They each borrowed money and paid about 1500 dollars to the agents and for airfare. They had two year contracts with their Chinese agents and were promised 700 euro plus room and board for 250 hours labour per month.
They were hired out to two shady companies, both with the same owners: Eko-Energia and V-Agra. It is clear that V-Agra was the real employer-user of the workers. The companies did not want to provide the workers with any local contracts.
V-Agra is a subcontracter for several real estate development firms. The workers were taken to different building sites to work on residential housing. From what we were able to establish, this work was not always done in safe conditions. The workers, who were transported to these sites, were not readily able to identify all the places they worked, but with some effort we managed to identify at least 2 housing estates they worked at.
They did not receive any money for 3 months and were living off food supplies they had brought from China. Finally, they began to search for informal work and eventually they went on strike. For that, the company V-Agra fired them.
We obtained a copy of their notice:
"In connection with a violation of work discipline, refusing to carry out work duties and organizing an illegal strike, as well as some workers taking up illegal work in Poland, and in connection with the companies Fujian Huamin Overseas Employment, Helly Overseas Employment and Lin Baotong failure to pay for the costs of the hotel and supply a return ticket to China, we inform you that as of June 18, that is the day that you did not appear at work, all obligations towards the employees of Fujian Huamin Overseas Employment, Helly Overseas Employment and Lin Baotong have ceased.
In connection with the above, we call on all the employees of Fujian Huamin Overseas Employment, Helly Overseas Employment and Lin Baotong to leave Poland by July 12, 2009.
We also inform you that from that day employees of Fujian Huamin Overseas Employment, Helly Overseas Employment and Lin Baotong have no right to lodging in the workers' hotel in Ursus or to stay in Poland.
In the event that you do not leave Poland by the above-mentioned date, we will inform the Border Guards, which will start your deportation procedure.
In all cases of payment, accomodation and return tickets, please contact your employers - that is Fujian Huamin Overseas Employment, Helly Overseas Employment and Lin Baotong - directly.
We inform you that our company has annulled all permission to work in Poland and Polish visas. Staying in Poland and working is illegal and will be punished according to Polish law.
We also inform you that leaving for another EU country will be considered illegally crossing the border and is subject to penalty.
Chairperson of the Board"
Other Chinese workers who came to work in Warsaw had to pay much more to get here. A few months ago, some of the Chinese workers left Warsaw to try and find employment elsewhere in Poland. A group of workers were sent to the company Eurochin in Katowice were they were also used as slave labour, among other things, to build a Pentacostal church. (The owner of the work agency is a former pastor.) The owner of Eurochin did not pay them and, when they tried to talk to him about it, he called the police and got protection from the workers who were "threatening him". They wound up squatting a house in Myslowice. After an idiot journalist revealed the address of the house, the border police went their and took them into detention for deportation.
There are many Chinese workers now illegally living in Poland, looking for illegal work to survive and eventually get back to China. There they may face problems with debts. Apparently one of the Chinese workers who returned home was imprisoned for his debts.
The group in front of the embassy showed up over 3 weeks ago asking for help - but they got none. So some of them tried to find some work. A couple of days ago, they started to camp out in front of the embassy. They don't have tents and have made makeshift shelters from sticks, garbage bags and plastic.
Camping rough has been difficult; today one person felt faint and had to be hospitalized. The Red Cross came with some supplies, as did ZSP who prepared them some dinner. Some people from the neighbourhood stopped by with provisions.
Members of ZSP, who were able to communicate with the workers and find out some key details about their case, plan to give hell to V-Agra and the companies using these workers, as well as to the authorities who know that these things are happening but do nothing to make sure that these people have proper working conditions and are getting paid.