Case against Roche: Workers Testify about the Details of Working through Third Parties

On December 17, the first hearing in a lawsuit against Roche Polska took place. (An earlier hearing was postponed.) The IT workers is suing to have his employment status recognized, be reinstated at work and to get compensation for lost benefits. The employer had been using third parties and outside firms to pay the workers, even when the outside firm had nothing to do with the work done. Such firms served only to be an intermediary and to pay the workers. The company then did not give them benefits nor did they give them any of the guarantees workers have under the Labour Code.
At the beginning of the hearing, the lawyer for Roche proposed to settle and pay the worker damages of 40,000 zloties (around 10,000 euros) if he would waive any further claims. He did not agree to this and continued with the case.
Two witnesses were heard: one is a current employee of the firm, another a former employee. Both IT workers were employed to work at Roche through the outside firm. The first witness testified that he had his work interview at Roche. There he learned about the work conditions, pay, etc. and was told he would be hired. But then Roche told him he had to work for another guy and sent him to him. Then he never even had any contract with this outside firm. He worked the whole time at Roche. Another witness, who worked through the same firm, but then had a contract directly said that he saw no difference between his work at the company and as a contractor, except that the direct employees were invited to company parties and received benefits. Both worked in the same place set by Roche and carried out the tasks set by their supervisors at work. The firm which supposedly was there to give them work never supervised or even was aware of the work of „its” workers and there was no contact with that company and the workers at the Roche office. Both of the workers had seen the owner of that company only once.

The lawyer from Roche tried to convince the court that there was no work relationship between Roche and such workers. In the response to the suit, the lawyers for Roche argue that the firm does not know why the workers had to be at work 8 hours a day and that they could come and go as they please and didn't have to come to work. One worker testified that Roche told him when he had to work and the other that he had to come in between 8 and 9 and leave between 4 and 5. With that information, the lawyer for Roche tried to suggest that such a situation proves that the worker himself decided when he came to work, however many workers are allowed to come in within some flexible timeframe, as long as they work 8 hours a day. Further the lawyer tried to suggest that perhaps the worker didn't have to come to the office, asking if it were possible to do the work from home. But the question itself is a trap, since if you ask anybody if it is possible that they could work from home, they could say yes, meaning they could do their work at home... but not meaning that they were allowed to do it. But the worker said that there were daily meeting in the office where people were assigned tasks, so he had to be in the office to know what to do. The worker bringing the suit, who was defending himself, then asked the other if he as a contractor had access to the Roche IT system outside of the office and he said no. So in such a situation that his work was dependent on working on and in the IT system which he had access to only in the office, it was impossible to do this work elsewhere.
The next hearing in the case is planned for the end of June.
Unfortunately for workers, such is the pace that the Labour Courts work at in Poland, especially in Warsaw. This is also a problem of chronic underfunding of the system, which also means the courts cannot hire new judges and they are themselves severely overworked. (Other workers in the court system receive terribly wages, even just around minimum wage. Three weeks ago there was a large protest of court workers in Warsaw.)
We hope that more people will begin to talk about the problems of workers fictitiously employed through outside companies thanks to this case. We also would like to draw attention to the fact that, unlike temporary work agencies, these intermediaries are not regulated in the same ways and do not offer any guarantees to the workers rendering services for them.


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