More Pains than Gains for Organised Labour in Law and Justice’s Poland

The ambulance workers have, in theory, chosen to be freelancers, as they also have the option of taking up permanent employment with the service. In practice though, self-employment tends to be the only offer on the table. For the managers, treating the paramedics like Uber drivers makes sense - it delivers savings and greater flexibility. For the ambulance workers, the arrangement has clear downsides. They have no job security and, as contractors helping the sick and injured, minimal insurance themselves against sickness and injury.

Last summer, Goscinski and his colleagues began fighting back against the Uberisation of the ambulance service. Some 60 paramedics across Warsaw went on strike, demanding a pay rise and the option of permanent employment - or as they put it, an end to the "dictatorship of self-employment". At the height of their action, nearly half the capital's 80 ambulances were not staffed. Ambulance workers in other Polish cities joined in, and the Ministry of Health took notice.

The striking workers were summoned to negotiations. The ministry offered to raise their wages but refused their core demand for permanent contracts. Facing disappointment in the talks and a fourth wave of the pandemic, the workers called off their strike and resumed their frontline duties.

Goscinski took part in last year's talks with the government, as a representative of the paramedics. "We didn't achieve anything in the way of better conditions," he told BIRN, after completing a 12-hour shift at his new workplace, the emergency unit of a major Warsaw hospital. The income from his new job, supplemented by shifts for a private medical provider, have kept him afloat since he left the ambulance service. His contract there was not renewed, he said, ...

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