The IWA Secretariat enquired about practices of NGO Divé maky in Bratislava + interview

The IWA Secretariat enquired about practices of NGO Divé maky in Bratislava + interview

At the end of last week representatives of the IWA Secretariat visited Slovakia and met with members of Priama akcia union (IWA Slovakia). The major topics of their discussions were issues related to illegal employment, onerous contracts and unpaid wages in both neighbouring countries. Representatives of the IWA Secretariat were particularly interested in the development of the conflict of Priama akcia with NGO Divé maky, shared experiences from conflicts and gave impulses for next steps.

They wanted to personally meet with Mgr. Barbora Kohútiková from Divé maky who is responsible for the situation. However, no one was in Divé maky office on Monday forenoon, so a message was left in the mail box and on the doors. The situation was discussed also in form of an interview.

We have received a lot of support from IWA Secretariat and IWA Sections. We know that the IWA Secretariat wrote to Divé maky and complained about their dubious practices regarding the contracts as well as handling of personal information by the lawyer of and the administrator of Divé maky. What do you think about the fact that they still haven't paid the money they owe to Michal?

We think that it is quite awful that any person should have to go through this. What's more is that the organization is trying to defend it's clearly unethical practices by using even worse ones, including different threats, going to the police with nonsense claims about the quite peaceful actions of people defending the worker and writing letters to his supporters, trying to blame him for the situation. They are trying to find excuses for not having paid him 950 €, which there can be no excuse for.

Do you have any experience with similar cases? If so, how did they end?

Unfortunately, such dishonest practices occur not only in Slovakia, so yes, we have experience with this. We are surprised how many bosses think they can get away with cheating people; perhaps they think that people will just tire of dealing with them and give up and that nobody will support the workers. Of course they are mistaken. In many cases it has turned out that the bosses have lost a lot more money than they would have paid in the first place. Not everybody wants to do business with such people.

Why do you think Divé maky is willing to risk a public conflict, even though they openly admit that they unlawfully did not pay the 950 €?

We are not psychologists or mind readers, so it is hard to say in this particular case. Perhaps they think that their reputation is so strong that they can get away with anything, or that if they blame the worker, people will automatically assume that they are telling the truth. Who knows. But in our opinion, it shows that the management of the organization made a bad decision and now is just going to do everything but admit a bad decision was made. It is not uncommon for bosses of small organizations to act in such a way. In any case, this is a big mistake which will most likely prove costly to them.

What would be your message to people who have supported Michal so far in Slovakia and abroad?

For those who supported Michal, that's great. We cannot stay silent when these things happen and please remember that if something happens to you, there will also be people to stand in solidarity with you.

What would you advice Michal and Priama akcia to do?

First, don't stop until Michal is paid and, if Divé maky does not pay in the next week or two, exert more pressure. We are pretty sure that your legal case is solid, so also we would put in a lawsuit, just in case they are stubborn. Please remember to sue them for legal costs and interest as well. And if the issue for Michal is the cost of such a procedure, the IWA will surely consider supporting him financially.

During your visit to Slovakia, you also wanted to visit the office of Divé maky, but there was no one there. What would you tell them, if you had the chance?

First, we are sure they would try to justify themselves, but there can be no justification for what they've done. So we would tell them to pay Michal and save their fairy tales for someone who is naive. Also, we would tell them that organizations like theirs should be there to help people, not to screw them over and leave them without money to put bread on the table. That's really appalling. Finally, we would say that we hope that their other workers will not be foolish enough to believe that this is an isolated incident that happened to Michal and cannot happen to them and that they would be smart enough to organize themselves to act the next time something like this happens – because if Divé maky is not held accountable by their own workers, they are likely to repeat this behaviour.


Text of the letter put in the mail box of Divé maky on 28th December 2015:

To Divé maky,

Concerning the ongoing problem of your former worker, who hasn’t been paid the owed remuneration of 950 €, we call on your organization to end your campaign of trying to justify your non-payments. There is no justification for what you are doing and you’re discrediting your organization with your actions.

Please note, that we will not just go away and give up because you are trying to defend your indefensible position with threats and misinformation.

We also repeat that we condemn your practice of forcing workers to pretend to be independent contractors (thus avoiding paying them social and health benefits). We consider this practice illegal and despicable of any employer, let alone employer in the charitable sector.

We hope, that other workers for your organization will not meet the same faith as Michal and have Happy New Year with money to put food on the table.

The IWA stands behind Michal and will offer Priama akcia all the necessary support to get Michal’s money back.

Pay the owed money immediately!

Secretariat of the International Workers’ Association (IWA/AIT)