Monday, October 29, 2012

Bad boss

The anorexic, ex-ballerina from Poland quit today.  I had swung by work to ask some pesky questions regarding my pay and noticed that the stand next to ours was un-staffed.  There were pastry, truffle and some salad packaged up and ready to go, but who was selling it?  Ten minutes, how long I'd already been at work, seemed a long time for a pee/coffee/phone call break.  I went around to the cash register and saw a sign reading: Selbstbedienung!  There stood a wee pot next to the sign that I assumed would be for those honest enough to pay once they'd served themselves.

Knowing what I do about how over-worked and underpaid the dancer was I am certainly not surprised to not see her anymore.  B., the woman (also Polish) working the stand before her, was a devout Catholic with an engineering degree and a mathematics teaching credential.  She had been unsuccessful finding suitable employment back in Poland, so she'd come to Zurich to stay with her sister and try her luck here.  She managed to last ten days before seemingly abruptly quitting, leaving no forwarding address.  B. had worked ten ten-hour days, six days in a row before one day off, for which she had not yet been paid.  I often saw her praying while sitting behind the counter, holding her rosary beads in one hand.  The owners had promised her help in obtaining a 'B' permit in order for her to legally stay and work here in CH.  They were dragging their heels on said help while trying to convince her to sign a work contract entitling her to something like 800 CHF for a month of work, or something like that.  She balked, and, in the end, just bailed out sans paycheck.  Before she left she told me of possible work in her field of study up in Norway.  She intended to look into it, at any rate.  The last I heard B. was briefly back in Poland visiting family.

As I was leaving work I ran into a man who has been concerned about the ballerina's plight at the shop.  He'd urged her to file a complaint about her maltreatment by her employers.  She was more than reluctant to do so.  Taking them on without a fall-back plan did seem a bit like self-sabotage.  Without a new job to go to and very little social support around her she wasn't inclined to rock the boat, she'd told me.  I understood.  I told the man all these things to which he replied, 'well, someone has to do something!'  Well, yes, but who will?  The dancer was now out of the equation, and, hopefully, had found suitable replacement work somewhere less inhumane.  The question I now have is who will be coming in to replace her?  Will she also be a foreign national?  What sort of permit, if any, will she hold? 


  1. ok ok.. I have to ask .. what is "snicker-snort" and "tote hose" they're so funny sounding! ;) Sounds like this place is a nightmare to work with. I hope she found something better as well. :/

    1. Hey MB!

      I'm glad that you asked. :) 'Snicker-snort' is the sound that I imagine some people making when they laugh. My mom is a bit of a snorter when she laughs and it's funny stuff. I'm guilty of it, too! If one clicks on 'snicker-snort', then they thought the post was humorous, or so I hope! 'Tote Hose' is a German expression and it means 'boring/nothing going on'. 'Like, this party is tote Hose!' Really, I hope no one clicks on 'tote Hose', but I wanted to give one the option. :D

    2. And, yes, I hope she's off to better things, and, of course, I hope that she finds a way to deal with her eating issues.

  2. Hmm. I wouldn't have thought this would happen in Switzerland. But I guess maltreatment of employees is something global.

    And that's very ignorant of me; I didn't realise you had a job.

  3. I wouldn't have thought that this sort of thing would be happening here either. It would seem that where there is an immigrant population, then there is the potential for worker abuse. And, as you mentioned, maltreatment of workers is a global problem. What really upsets me about this particular case is that the owners are also immigrants from Eastern Europe who came to this country years ago, got established, and have become successful.


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