Polish expat students treated as second-class employees abroad

Polish students undertaking practical training abroad are often taken advantage of and are treated as second-class employees. Dziennik Polski reports how Polish students sent abroad to places such as Greece for their vocational training are too scared to stand up for their rights. The scenario plays out like a textbook example. A group of students enthusiastically jump at the chance of going abroad to carry out paid vocational training in the hospitality industry. Recruitment agencies like The Tree in Warsaw sign agreements with hospitality schools such as the Wyzsza Szkola Zawodowa (Tertiary Training School) in Krakow, offering students training programs in Greek hotels that are later counted towards their degrees. Students go through the recruitment process, interviews in English and eventually sign contracts with the terms and wages stipulated. Upon arrival to Greece, the working conditions are not what they agreed to, the wages are smaller than what they expected, and the treatment is substandard and derogatory. When the students protest, the employers usually respond with a quick “Well you can pack your bags and leave or deal with it.” The students more often than not choose the former.According to Dziennik Polski this is exactly what happened to five students from Krakow. They were sent to Greece to work in a hotel until October of this year. Upon arriving on the Greek island of Corfu, they quickly became aware they would be responsible for cleaning 30 hotel rooms instead of the 20 they were told in Poland. Their hours were substantially longer than their Greek work friends, and their wages half of what the Greek chambermaids were earning. The students complained of always being assigned the worst job descriptions such as cleaning all the windows in the hotel rooms as well as cleaning all the toilets. The most difficult element however was being treated with scorn and disrespect by their superiors and other employees. When their complaints fell on deaf ears, they handed in their notice of termination effective September 15, giving the employer one month’s notice instead of the required two weeks. In response the employer demanded that unless they were willing to stick around until October, they were to leave immediately. All terms of the contract were breached as the students left without having their two weeks of notice implemented. The problem stems from the fact that students are not aware of their rights and are often too scared to stand up to their foreign employers. Any employer breaches should be reported officially within the country where they are working. Motions should be filed in the local courts. In the above scenario, the Krakowian students could have filed for a breach of their terms. Compensation could have been sought for the two weeks of not being given notice of termination by the employer who forced them to leave immediately. This however should have been done in Greece. The only source of damages sought in Poland could have been done by filing a complaint against the recruitment company. As with migrant workers, students are increasingly becoming aware of the problem of being taken advantage of. If more complaints are officially filed, the employers will be forced to abide by the regulations.

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