Workers ask to help spread information about their plight.
The wave of suicides at France Telecom last year made headlines around the world. But in Poland, the suicide attempts of two workers in one month at TP S.A. (Polish Communications, owned by France Telecom) is being hushed over, as are complaints by the workers. They have also written an open letter, again repressed by the mainstream media (but published here).
On March 8, a 38-year old woman jumped out of a third floor window at the Poznan TP S.A. office. Although he broke her spine and sustained injuries to the brain, she miraculously survived.
The woman had worked an office job at TPSA, but when layoffs were made, she was offered a new (and worse) position at their call center.
Work at the call center is infamously stressful. Not only because of the angry clients calling, but also because of the norms and procedures imposed on the workers by TP S.A. On top of this, there have been numerous incidents of mobbing. Although unions brought this up as a major issue, and TP S.A. agreed to take measures to reduce stress levels in its collective agreement, nothing has been done.
Add to this the fact that TP S.A. is restructuring and recently announced the dismissal of 1900 more workers.
The woman from Poznan was not the only one who could not cope and tried to send a desperate message to the company. On March 24, a woman in Szczecin also tried to kill herself on the job, but was saved thanks to the lightening fast intervention of her colleagues.
In a conversation with workers from the Warsaw office, we found out that employees are on the edge. After the incident in Poznan, some small group of concerned workers discussed whether this was also possible in their office. Since then, they have been vigilantly keeping their eyes open for signs that somebody might snap.
Problems in TP S.A. are caused not only by uncertainty about jobs. The atmosphere is like a pressure cooker in many offices and departments, where employees are driven to be ultra-efficient and work beyond their capacity.
They are deliberately understaffed, overworked and squeezed. Some workers are also convinced that such belt-tightening is even necessary, since TP S.A., as the telecommunications incumbent in Poland, is the constant target of the Competition Office and EU policies which have eroded much of its client base in the name of "improving competitiveness".
Add to this poor management and an improper attitude towards employees. A good example is the commonplace mobbing in the Poznan office. In 2006, one employee finally decided not to take it anymore and went to court. He had been very badly treated by 3 managers and had secretly recorded some incidents. He won his court case but, to his dismay, there was no disciplinary procedure taken against any of the three, two of which retain their posts to this day. Employees at the Poznan office say that this is a perfect reflection of how seriously the firm treats this issue. Some even claim that the incident convinced those managers they were untouchable, inspiring them to become even worse.
Workers, constantly being faced with the threat of redunancies, do not feel in a strong position to force these issues with the firm. A few unions have, but it looks like the company just paid them lip service and nothing is being done to tackle the real problems. Some of the most desperate and disgruntled have tried to get attention by writing an open letter in response to the incident in Poznan. It was ignored by the mainstream media, ostensibly because it is anonymous. (*) Now they have started airing their grievances on the internet.
(*Although it is not signed with a list of names, we know that journalists were contacted personally and are aware that this is a legitimate letter and that it reflects the opinions of a significant group of employees.)
Below is a translation of the open letter, along with an added comment, written a few days ago:
After the suicide attempt in Poznan on March 8, 2010, another attempted suicide occured, this time in Szczecin on March 24, 2010. Only thanks to the lighting-fast reaction of co-workers was another tragedy avoided.
This woman was hospitalized and had a total nervous breakdown.
What has been going on in TP S.A. for a long time is not only related to the Call Center; mobbing and dismissals have been common throughout the company for years. But recently the extent of this has escalated.
Employees can no longer stand the psychological pressure put on them for many years.
In the media there is a conspiracy of silence, with a lack of information about the tragic incidents and the situation in TP S.A. From this we may infer how strong are the powers behind TP and Orange (*) since information about abused animals made headlines in the media but there is silence about the psychological abuse of people!
(* Mobile phone provider also owned by France Telecom)
How the bosses treat us cannot be explained by the crisis. It is a sheepish drive to power and profit and any cost because money prevents them from seeing others as human beings.
Here is the open letter:
Warsaw, March 8, 2010
Workers from Polish Telecommunications S.A.
As employees of Polish Telecommunications S.A., we address the President of Poland, the Director of TP S.A., the union organizations and others...
We protest the treatment of workers as objects, not subjects.
We protest the treatment of workers as slaves and as instruments to make profit at any cost, in exchange for low pay, especially in comparision with the directors and managers in TP S.A.
Despite having introduced a Code of Ethics, a Code of Best Practices, a Social Pact and even an agreement with the Office of Electronic Communications and many other regulations, mobbing and violations of the Labour Code are every day occurrences.
Workers are forced to achieve very strict sales goals and work standards which are impossible to achieve in a normal 8-hour work day; the management who plan work in such a way for the employees are well aware of this fact.
In order to reach the sales targets, people work over 10 hours a day and they haven't received overtime pay for this for many years.
Workers are frightened by directors and management with threats of dismissal and other forms of mobbing which is against the Labour Code, which obliges employers to combat mobbing.
Despite the Social Pact concluded between unions and the Board of TP S.A., about voluntary redundancies, the managers discriminate against employees who have anything to do with sales, refusing to allow them to leave.
The Social Work Inspectors from the trade unions, who are supposed to care about compliance with the Labour Code and professional ethics do nothing to change the situation.
This is not just an anonymous letter - this is a cry from desperate employees from TP S.A. after the tragic suicide attempt of our co-worker.
We ask, who gave you the right to treat workers in such a deplorable way? Think about whose interests are you working in, and what damage you are doing! Are workers in Poland supposed to start committing suicide like in France Telekom in order for you to wake up and understand what evil you are doing?? !!!
Workers of Polish Telecommunications S.A.
Selected source material (in Polish):
POZNAŃ - Ofiara mobbingu odeszła z TP: winni nadal pracują w firmie
Wyskoczyła z okna, bo bała się zwolnienia?
List otwarty pracownicy Telekomunikacji Polskiej S.A.
very sad, but really good
very sad, but really good article, thank you for posting and writing it.
Do you have an author pseudonym you are happy with? Because it would be good to credit your pieces with an author tag...
one question though: What do you mean by "mobbing"? You mean bullying?
This is very sad since the
This is very sad since the problem is huge but because of constant threats of mass layoffs, there is little to no open worker resistance.
Workers there specifically asked us to try and spread this news and this letter and we see locally it has already attracted some attention.
"Mobbing" is bullying. This English term was used in Sweden and Germany and, if I am not mistaken, was taken as a loan word into several European languages, whereas "bullying" wasn't. Sorry that I forgot to write English English. :-)
If you want to tag me, go ahead. My name is signed.
right, that's funny, because
right, that's funny, because "mobbing" in English English doesn't really work here, the only meaning in English would be something like forming a huge group or "mob" in the street or whatever.
With your name, do you mean Akai, or your full real name?
Akai. Mobbing is a way of
Mobbing is a way of describing a type of animal behaviour and it is sometimes even used by native speakers to describe workplace bullying - but that seems to be on the otherside of the pond, where quite a few books actually use that term.
There is some interesting background on the term around this page:
This is an international
This is an international phenomenon in all the major states. There's always been bullying at work, always been repression and grief from the bosses to some degree or the other, but there's never been the expression of suicide at work as there is now - in this respect and research into this phenomenon, see the ICC's website for an article translated from its French section on suicides at work.
Bullying and intimidation at work has increased during the last two decades but is now ratcheting up to new levels with the development of the economic crisis, the need for capital to sharpen up its attacks and the disorientation of the working class, ie, the latter is allowing it to happen. Suicide at work (where's the no mistake about what the cause is, rather than being "hidden" at home or elsewhere) is a last, desperate, individual and forlorn attempt to rail against the system and maintain one's dignity in the face of intolerable circumstances. We should all feel these injuries.
At a renowned scientific
At a renowned scientific research firm near Montpellier in France, there have been 3 successful suicides within 6 months in a building containing 3 research teams of about 25 personnel each - about 4% of the workforce for that particular building. None of this in the media.
In the library, at the end of the text I put there on the history of the British miners, I put this about the atmosphere in parts of the UK two decades after the defeat of the miners struggles. It's perhaps a bit over -abstract and meandering, but nevertheless more pertinent than not (actually the library version has the 2 last sentences missing for some unknown reason):
if you could put anything in
if you could put anything in our news section about those suicides in France you mentioned Sam that would be great - then at least there would be something in our "media"
There was an interesting note
There was an interesting note yesterday in the Wall Street Journal about Polish Telecommunications.
TP SA is apparently considering in acquisitions in different business. This is according to an interview with the CEO. In the interview, CEO Witucki explained that "TPSA has eight billion zlotys ($2.75 billion) of free cash".
We think this should be grounds for a big scandal. While the company is threatening to slash thousands of more jobs, it is just gathering capital for expansion. At the costs of jobs and workers' health.
A similar situation was discovered at Polish National Railways last year when we learned that they were considering investing in German railways. (!) And at the same time, sacked thousands.
http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2010/3/suicide. How does one make the link so that you just click on it? I'd welcome some instruction on this.
There was a short, poignant interveiw on TV last night with an Irish paramedic. He said not only did he and his collegues have to cope with a 20% wage cut but that they had to deal with many more suicides and attempted suicides which were the direct result of the economic crisis.
edit: OK, it's done it.