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NY Polish Workers Struggle to Keep Their Jobs

Super Express USA, News Report, RK Posted: Jun 22, 2009

Editor's note: Translated from Polish by Aleksandra Slabisz, this story first appeared in "Voices That Must Be Heard," the online publication of New York Community Media Alliance.

Reports on the New York job market indicate that the situation is dire, with hundreds of applicants for each job opening. The construction sector in New York seems to be hit particularly hard.

"There is a tremendous slowdown in business. I get goose bumps thinking how much it is down," says Mariusz Rogalski, one of the owners of MR Electrical Contracting, which has been in the market for the past 21 years.

Although the latest statistics on the U.S. job market indicate a decline in the number of layoffs, there appears to be no improvement in the construction sector. Banks are not giving out loans and people are not investing in new projects. All this makes Polish workers fear for their employment situation, and those who have lost their jobs are having trouble finding new employment.

Jobs on hold

"We are still in operation and are doing our best not to let our workers feel the consequences of the crisis," says MR's Rogalski, who employs 12 people. He says it is hard. "The problem is not only the lack of new contracts. Many projects have been put on hold because the customers cannot get loans. On top of that, some dishonest people are taking advantage of the situation and use the crisis as the excuse not to pay us. We find it hard sometimes to get paid by clients whose projects we have completed," he explains.

In order to survive, MR Electrical Contracting has put on hold investing in new technology and equipment. "We are cutting down on expenses but we do not want to lay off people. I hope we will survive," says the owner.

Remodeling instead of building

Companies specializing in remodeling are doing a little bit better. "In the last year we have noticed a decline in the volume of contracts, but the situation isn't too bad. Our clients, mostly Americans, want to remodel. We get many contracts for new floors," says Maciej Jarmal, owner of MJ Polish Complete Floor Service, in the market for seven years. "I haven't had to lay off anybody. We are doing well," he says.

"We feared the worst. For three months we were not sure whether we would get any contracts. Some people had to be sent off on vacation," says Dorota Slabuszewska, from Jepol Construction, Inc. "Lately, though, things have gone back to normal. The employees are back on their shifts and Jepol is hiring new specialists," she added.

Surviving the crisis

There are some who have not felt the crisis. Krzysztof Pogorzelski, owner of K Construction, says his company is doing great. "We already survived one economic crisis a couple of years ago. We worked hard then, but managed to stay afloat," he says.

Pogorzelski employs 40 people and will not be laying off any of them. He has been getting new clients, thanks to the good quality service and recommendations, he believes.

"This year we are filling contracts we signed last year; however, we feel the crisis in other ways. We noticed that a lot of people are looking for jobs. When we advertise a job opening, we get 200 to 300 calls a day," he says, "when just half a year ago it was hard to find a skilled worker."

Another sign of the economic crisis says Pogorzelski, is "recently, some of our customers have resigned themselves to getting less expensive fixtures or tell us they will delay payment for the job."

Drama on the job market

Generally speaking, however, the situation is dramatic. "In my opinion, the construction sector is declining. Many builders and construction company owners are looking for jobs. I have not seen something like this in 20 years," says Janusz Koldowski, owner of the Kalejdoskop Employment Agency in Long Island.

Jakub Uszko, manager of Poland Employment Agency in Brooklyn, speaks in a similar tone. "In comparison to last year, the situation is very tough. A lot more people are looking for jobs. Job openings are available from time to time, but employers have higher requirements now," says Uszko.

Related Articles:

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