work contracts

Contract Work



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For Barbara Odyniec, supporting her family is a challenge. She works as a cashier, but doesn’t even earn minimum wage.

Barbara: “I work full-time in a supermarket, and earn only 1,200 zloti, or 400 euros a month. I work for a subcontractor, and they treat us like trash — not like people.”

Odyniec isn’t a regular employee: she has what’s called a work contract.

A work contract means that a person is paid to create a specific product, for example an advertising brochure. They’re paid for the product — not an hourly wage.

But there are some legal loopholes. Supermarkets for example use subcontractors.

Instead of paying an hourly wage, the subcontractors hire cashiers using work contracts.

So the cashiers are classified as self-employed and don’t get minimum wage, health insurance or pension coverage.

Many security staff and cleaning personnel are hired under work contracts. And large supermarket chains also exploit this legal loophole.

The staff have no job protection and rarely earn more than 400 euros a month.

Unions have long been fighting to change this practice.

But here in Poland, it’s still common in companies, such as Lydl.

Alfred Bujara, Solidarity Union: “The retail industry has a lot of these work contracts. About 40% of retail employees have work contracts.

Normally, they are not employed by the stores themselves. They are outsourced or hired through outside firms.”

The labor market in Poland has about 16 million workers. Almost a third are in what’s called the gray market, with short-term contracts and poor labor conditions.

1.6 million have only work contracts — and their numbers are on the rise.

The Polish employers federation says the minimum wage is to blame.

But the minimum wage in Poland is less than 2.50 euro per hour.

Jeremi Mordasewicz, Lewiatan Employers Association. “Our experience has shown that when the minimum wage is more than 40% of the average wage in the region, then companies start to dismiss poorly qualified workers.

Then they rehire them through different mechanisms, including the gray market for example.”

The gray market in Poland is on the rise.

And so are work contracts that pay less than minimum wage.

After the boom a few years ago, the Polish economy has now stabilized. In 2014, the gross domestic product increased by 3.3%.

But unemployment in Poland is over 11%.

That’s part of why people like Barbara Odyniec are forced to take poorly paid work contracts.

Barbara: “I have no choice; I have to take a work contract. And companies take advantage of people like me.”

She barely earns enough to support her family.

Barbara: “I can’t pay all my bills. I need to buy food for my children.”

For people like Barbara Odyniec, the minimum wage would be a major improvement.

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1. Who is Barbara Odyniec? Describe her life and situation.

2. Is she a regular employee? What is a work contract?

3. Which is better, being a regular employee or having a work contract?

4. Are unions happy about work contracts or are they fighting against it?

5. What is the trend for work contracts and the gray market?

6. If the work contract is not good, why do people accept them? People accept them because . . . .
A. What can you say about work contracts, outsourcing and temp work in your city? What is the employment situation in your city?

B. Are work contracts, outsourcing and temp work good, bad, both or neither?

C. What do people think about them? Do they like it?

D. What will happen in the future?

E. How can people like Barbara improve their situation?

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