A new helpline for Ukrainian refugees, supported by UNI Global Union, is up and running and providing advice for people looking for work in Poland.
The helpline, which started at the beginning of April, is part of a support programme called ‘Unions Help Refugees’ set up by UNI’s Warsaw-based Central European organizing centre, COZZ, in conjunction with UNI affiliates in Poland.
More than 2.5 million refugees, mostly women and children, have fled to Poland since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February. While some refugees move on to other countries, most stay and are eager to find work. However, it’s not easy. Nadia Oleszczuk, programme coordinator and president of the youth section of UNI’s Polish care affiliate, OPZZ KP, said:
“At present, many women from Ukraine don’t get a contract when taking up employment in Poland or even get paid during a trial period. They need someone to help them who knows the Polish language well, knows basic labour law rules and is able to help them negotiate with the employer.”
COZZ has recruited a team of people, which includes Ukrainian and Russian speakers, who have been trained on the legal status, registration and employment of refugees in Poland. The helpline aims to prevent the exploitation refugees by offering guidance to people on what to expect in terms of a fair contract and provide assistance for those who want to negotiate their working conditions or don’t feel safe at the workplace, amongst other advice.
COZZ director Rafal Tomasiak, added:
“There are many barriers to getting work, not least learning Polish and getting used to a new environment. Primarily refugees are looking for a job that does not require language skills or complex skills – even if they previously had a more qualified role. We believe the helpline will enable these workers to get the best outcome possible. We’re encouraging all the refugees searching for work to organize, join a union and help others.”
One of the first places people look for a job is on social media and COZZ has set up a Unions Help Refugees Facebook page as another way to reach out to refugees.
The support team has also been connecting with refugees through leafleting refugee centres in Warsaw. The leaflets include details of the helpline, basic employment rights and social benefits. The team will also distribute information leaflets in Krakow – Poland’s second city hosting large numbers of refugees – and gather details of the needs and demographics of people there.