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Blokada elektrowni i kopalni w Bełchatowie

Blokada elektrowni i kopalni w Bełchatowie

09 grudzień /Łódzkie

W piątek 8 grudnia zakończyła się trzydniowa akcja blokowania dróg dojazdowych do kopalni i elektrowni w Bełchatowie zorganizowana przez Związek Zawodowy "Zjednoczeni". Inicjatywa Pracownicza wsparła...

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Odcinamy elektrownię i kopalnię w Bełchatowie. Konferencja prasowa i demonstracje

Odcinamy elektrownię i kopalnię w Bełchatowie. Konferencja prasowa i demonstracje

03 grudzień /Pilne akcje

Z uwagi na akcję organizowaną przez naszych kolegów i koleżanki z Międzyzakładowego Związku Zawodowego Pracowników „Zjednoczeni” w Elbest sp. z o.o. zapraszamy na konferencję prasową,...

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Amazon przegrał w sądzie

Amazon przegrał w sądzie

29 listopad /Wielkopolskie

22 listopada 2017 r. zapadł wyrok korzystny dla byłej pracownicy firmy Amazon, która została zwolniona z powodu nieobecności spowodowanej chorobą. Inną przyczyną wypowiedzenia były nieusprawiedliwione...

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Publicystyka

Co z tą emeryturą?

Co z tą emeryturą?

30 listopad /Społeczeństwo

Obniżenie wieku emerytalnego a właściwie powrót do regulacji sprzed poprzedniej reformy stało się faktem. Pomimo tego  opinie dotyczące systemu emerytalnego są zróżnicowane, co nierzadko wynika z różnego położenia klasowego uczestników...

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Porady prawne

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Międzynarodowy Strajk Kobiet 2017 – jak możesz wziąć w nim udział?

06 marzec /Prawo

W środę 8 marca w całej Polsce odbędą się protesty, demonstracje, akcje bezpośrednie i strajki w ramach mobilizacji „Międzynarodowy Strajk Kobiet”. Strajk jest kontynuacją protestów z października 2016 r., kiedy...

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Mini­malna i mak­sy­malna tem­pe­ra­tura w pracy

10 sierpień /Prawo

Przypominamy uaktualniony artykuł na temat dopuszczalnych temperatur w miejscu pracy i wynikających z tego obowiązków pracodawcy oraz praw przysługujących pracownikom

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Płaca minimalna w 2017 r. - 2000 zł dla "etatowców" i minimana stawka godzinowa dla osób na zleceniach

11 lipiec /Prawo

14 czerwca rząd ogłosił, że w 2017 r. płaca minimalna wyniesie 2000 zł brutto czyli 1459,47 zł netto (na rękę). W stosunku do obecnego roku, minimalne wynagrodzenie wzrośnie o 150...

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Praca na czarno i na umowach cywilnoprawnych

13 maj /Prawo

Zatrudnianie „na czarno” oraz na podstawie umowy cywilnoprawnej (umowa zlecenie bądź umowa o dzieło) nie jest dla pracodawcy bezkarne.Mimo że w dzisiejszych, trudnych dla pracowników, czasach może się wydawać, że...

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Umowy na czas określony - dłuższe okresy wypowiedzenia, nadal mniejsza ochrona

03 marzec /Prawo

22 lutego weszły w życie nowe przepisy Kodeksu Pracy odnoszące się do umów na czas określony. W istotny sposób zmieniają one zasady zawierania i rozwiązywania takich umów, w niektórych wypadkach...

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Dokumenty

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Przeciwko faszyzacji państwa - oświadczenie w sprawie reformy sądownictwa

25 lipiec /Dokumenty bieżące

Stanowisko przyjęte przez Komisję Krajową OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza 23 lipca 2017 r. Ogólnopolski Związek Zawodowy Inicjatywa Pracownicza sprzeciwia się uchwalonym przez Sejm ustawom o zmianie przepisów o Krajowej Radzie Sądownictwa, o...

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Solidarność ze strajkiem głodowym palestyńskich więźniów – stanowisko europejskich związków zawodowych

26 maj /Dokumenty bieżące

[oryginalna treść stanowiska po angielsku jest dostępna tutaj] 17 kwietnia ok. 1500 palestyńskich więźniów politycznych rozpoczęło strajk głodowy. Protestujący domagają się zakończenia nadużyć, tortur i stosowania kary izolatki,  podniesienia standardów opieki...

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Stanowisko w sprawie tzw. „dekomunizacji” ulic w Warszawie

31 marzec /Dokumenty bieżące

Stanowisko 6 warszawskich komisji OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza ws. planów "dekomunizacji" ulic, przyjęte 27 marca 2017 r.

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Spra­woz­da­nie z dzia­łal­no­ści Mało­pol­skiej Komi­sji Mię­dzy­za­kła­do­wej Ope­ra­to­rów przy OZZIP za rok 2016

22 grudzień /Dokumenty bieżące

  Do naj­istot­niej­szych pro­ble­mów, jakimi Mało­pol­ska Komi­sja zaj­mo­wała się w bie­żą­cym roku, były przed­kła­dane przez nas Mini­ster­stwu Rozwoju pro­jekty zmian w pra­wie doty­czące naszego zawodu. Pierw­szy z nich doty­czył obo­wiązku mon­tażu...

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Strajk kobiet teraz! - stanowisko Komisji Krajowej OZZ IP

29 wrzesień /Dokumenty bieżące

Wzywamy wszystkie pracownice i pracowników do udziału w Ogólnopolskim Strajku Kobiet 3 października 2016 r. przeciwko zaostrzeniu ustawy aborcyjnej. Całkowity zakaz aborcji pozbawia kobiety kontroli nad własną płodnością. W ten sposób...

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Filmy

09 grudzień 2017 / Łódzkie

W piątek 8 grudnia zakończyła się trzydniowa akcja blokowania dróg dojazdowych do kopalni i elektrowni w Bełchatowie zorganizowana przez Związek…

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Biuletyn Inicjatywa Pracownicza numer 47

Biuletyn Inicjatywa Pracownicza numer 47

W numerze:KOMENTARZ REDAKCJI:– Inicjatywa Pracownicza za dostępem do aborcji, przeciwko wyzyskowiZ ŻYCIA ZWIĄZKU:– Bez walki nie licz na lepsze życie!...

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Biuletyn Inicjatywa Pracownicza numer 46

Biuletyn Inicjatywa Pracownicza numer 46

W numerze:KOMENTARZ REDAKCJI:– Paternalistyczne państwo Jarosława KaczyńskiegoZ ŻYCIA ZWIĄZKU:– Ponad 2 tys. pracowników za strajkiem w Amazonie! - Poznań, Wrocław–...

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Umowa o pracę - kiedy masz do niej prawo i dlaczego jest dla Ciebie lepsza od umów cywilnoprawnych

Umowa o pracę - kiedy masz do niej prawo i dlaczego jest dla Ciebie lepsza od umów cywilnoprawnych

W Polsce ponad dwa miliony pracowników i pracownic jest zatrudnianych na umowach cywilnoprawnych (o dzieło i zlecenie) lub prowadzi jednoosobową...

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Apple zyskuje, Foxconn wyzyskuje! – protesty przeciwko koncernowi w Polsce

W Warszawie i Poznaniu pod sklepami Apple odbyły się pikiety w ramach Europejskich Dni Akcji. Podobne protesty miały miejsce również w innych miastach Europy.

15 maja pod sklepem iSpace na Nowym Świecie w Warszawie protestowano przeciwko nieludzkim warunkom pracy w fabrykach Foxconn - producenta sprzętu marki Apple. Wydarzenie zorganizowane przez Warszawska Komisje Środowiskową OZZIP miało na celu ukazanie realnego obrazu działalności koncernu, którego głównym komunikatem wizerunkowym jest społeczna odpowiedzialność. Aby ukazać rozdźwięk pomiędzy marketingową iluzją a rzeczywistą praktyką wyzysku i przemocy, uczestnicy warszawskiego protestu wysypali pod witryną sklepową skrzynkę zgniłych jabłek (jabłuszko to logo Apple'a).

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Zapowiedź: Pikiety przed sklepami Apple w ramach Europejskich Dni Akcji

Zabierzmy się za Apple! Żadna aplikacja nie pomoże Ci w strajku!

15-17 maja – DNI AKCJI przeciwko globalnym łańcuchom wyzysku – Rzym, Frankfurt, Bologna, Warszawa, Poznań, Dusseldorf

W ramach Europejskich Dni Akcji – mayofsolidarity.org – organizujemy protesty i akcje nieposłuszeństwa obywatelskiego w różnych miastach Europy przed sklepami Apple.

Warszawa - 15 maja, czwartek, godz. 18, Nowy Świat 45, przed sklepem ISpace.
Poznań - 17 maja, sobota, godz. 12, przed Starym Browarem (nowe wejście od ul. Ratajczaka), w którym znajduje się iSpot.

Apple, który korzysta z globalnych łańcuchów wyzysku, będzie dla nas symbolem „nowoczesnej produkcji na zamówienie”, żerującej na globalnych różnicach płacowych. Dziś w czasach kryzysu w całej Europie wprowadza się programy oszczędnościowe, w efekcie których bogacą się bogaci i biednieją biedni. Coraz więcej osób pracuje na śmieciowych umowach. Ta sama polityka prowadzi do wzrostu wyzysku w globalnych fabrykach.

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Prawomocny wyrok przeciw Chung Hong

paraprotestW czwartek 3.04.2014 r. z pozytywnym skutkiem dla jednej z byłych pracownic Chung Hong, zakończyła się trwająca od niemalże dwóch lat sprawa o odszkodowanie za bezprawne rozwiązanie umowy o pracę bez wypowiedzenia. Wyrok jest prawomocny. To pierwsza z prawomocnie zakończonych spraw 26 osób zwolnionych za udział w strajku zorganizowanym przez Komisję Zakładową Inicjatywy Pracowniczej w Chung Hong Electronics Poland sp. z o. o. (czytaj więcej: Procesy z Chung Hong i JP Weber - podsumowanie)

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Z ogromnym smutkiem żegnamy Krzysztofa Gazdę

Z ogromnym smutkiem informujemy, że 28 marca zmarł Krzysztof Gazda - nasz kolega i towarzysz walki.

Krzysztof był zastępcą przewodniczącej komisji zakładowej w Chung Hong, którego zwolnienie dyscyplinarne było iskrą zapalną do rozpoczęcia strajku w fabryce. 30 grudnia 2013 r. sąd przywrócił Krzysztofa do pracy i nakazał pracodawcy wypłacenie mu odszkodowania za cały czas pozostawania bez pracy.

Krzysztof, represjonowany za działalność związkową, w tym za prowadzenie sporu zbiorowego i przygotowania akcji strajkowej, walczył o pracowniczą samoorganizację oraz lepsze warunki życia i pracy. Wielokrotnie przemawiał na licznych protestach w Specjalnej Strefie Ekonomicznej, a także min. na demonstracji "Chleba zamiast igrzysk" w Poznaniu mówiąc o wyzysku i represjach wobec pracowników. Po strajku min. w Warszawie, Poznaniu i Berlinie odbyły się spotkania i dyskusje z jego udziałem.

Zapamiętamy Krzysztofa jako wspaniałego kolegę i bojownika oraz bezkompromisowego działacza na rzecz poprawy losu wszystkich pracowników. Tacy ludzie jak on nie umierają, a żyją w naszych działaniach i w naszym oporze.

Zamiast minuty ciszy - całe życie walce!

Rodzinie i Najbliższym składamy wyrazy głębokiego współczucia.

OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza

Pogrzeb Krzysztofa Gazdy odbędzie się w czwartek (3.04) o godzinie 13.00 na cmentarzu komunalnym w Nowej Rudzie, ul. Cmentarna 11. Spotykamy się w kaplicy.

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Procesy z Chung Hong i JP Weber - podsumowanie

Już ponad półtora roku toczą się sprawy w sądzie pracy po tym, jak zarząd firmy Chung Hong w strefie LG pod Wrocławiem zwolnił dyscyplinarnie 26 osób za strajk. Pod koniec grudnia 2013 roku cztery sprawy rozegrały się na korzyść strajkujących.

Wciąż nie możemy szeroko opisywać tego, co dzieje się na sali rozpraw, gdyż sprawy w sądzie pracy zostały utajnione. Na wniosek prawników Chung Hong, którzy twierdzili, że jawność godzi w interesy firmy, nikt z zewnątrz nie mógł uczestniczyć w rozprawach. Była to próba wyciszania potencjalnych protestów, rozbijania pracowniczej solidarności i uniemożliwiania zwolnionym informowania na bieżąco opinii publicznej o ich sytuacji.

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Victory of Chung-Hong workers in court

In summer 2012, a labor struggle occurred at the Chinese electronics supplier Chung Hong in the special economic zone Kobierzyce near Wroclaw/Poland. Chung Hong produces mainboards for monitors and TVs of the South-Korean multinational corporation LG which has a factory in the same zone.

26 workers, members of Workers' Initiative from the Chung Hong were fired during a two-week strike action in June 2012. In December 2013 some of them won their case in the labor court – one worker was ordered to be reinstated and the other got a financial compensation for unfair disciplinary dismissal.

Chung Hong had claimed that the strike was illegal. After the lockout, the workers could not continue their activity in the factory, lost their wages, and the immediate unemployment benefit. Neither the welfare office nor any other state institution did provide them any help. Support came from their local supporters and an international solidarity campaign.

On December 19, 2013, three workers won their whole case and got all the compensation they had demanded (around 1,500 Euro). Their dismissal notice had to be changed, too. It is important for those workers with a long working history at Chung-Hong that their notice does not state that they got fired for disciplinary reasons. According to the judgment, it was not important whether the strike was legal or not. The employer was simply not entitled to fire workers who took part for disciplinary reasons without previous notice. The workers were not obliged to follow the instructions of the employer who claimed that the strike was illegal.

On December 30, 2013, Krzysztof Gazda was reinstated by Chung-Hong. He is the Workers' Initiative activist who was fired just before the strike, and his dismissal had sparked the strike. The court also ordered the employer to pay compensation for the whole period he was unemployed (about 600 Euros per month since June 2012).

The court stated what we all knew, and what the boss tried to hide, that Krzysztof was fired for his activity and preparation of the strike.

In his final speech in the court Krzysztof said that if he loses, that would have been a hardship not only to him, but to others who fight and strive for workers' self-organization and better living and working conditions. In Poland all those workers often face the same situaton he had to go trough.

The law-firm JP Weber that supports international investors in Poland organizationally and legally, lost this case after its long union-busting campaign during which it presented dubious evidences against the workers. However, it still may appeal against the verdict. Meanwhile, Krzysztof is ready to go back to the factory.

Few other workers are going to have their court cases in the near future. For various reasons, some other workers already agreed earlier to a settlement proposed by Chung Hong. For they withdrawal from the court case Chung Hong changed the conditions of their contract termination and paid compensation. In general, the situation is not rosy as some of the workers still have not found a job, and others do black work or work abroad. Some did find poorly paid and temporary work through a job agency – again in the same SEZ, as often those are the only employers in the region.

Film:

Special Exploitation Zones (48 min, 2013, in Polish with English, German, or Italian subtitles)
http://en.labournet.tv/video/6596/special-exploitation-zones

Related articles and interviews:

"We must act together, we have to show solidarity" – Voices of Chung Hong Electronics workers
http://ozzip.pl/english-news/item/1389-we-must-act-together-we-have-to-show-solidarity-%E2%80%93-voices-of-chung-hong-electronics-workers

 

"We are no machines" – Workers' Struggle in a Chinese Electronics Factory in Poland
by friends of gongchao (March 2013)
http://www.gongchao.org/en/texts/2013/strike-in-chinese-company-in-polish-sez

Poland: Special Exploitation Zones – interview
http://ozzip.pl/english-news/item/1575-poland-special-exploitation-zones

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Wygrane procesy z Chung Hong

Już ponad półtora roku toczą się sprawy przed sądem pracy po tym, jak zarząd firmy Chung Hong w specjalnej strefie ekonomicznej pod Wrocławiem zwolnił dyscyplinarnie 26 osób za strajk. Kilka dni temu trzy sprawy rozegrały się na korzyść strajkujących.

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Rok po strajku w Chung Hong

5 lipca w specjalnej strefie ekonomicznej LG pod Wrocławiem odbyła się całodniowa pikieta zorganizowana z okazji rocznicy strajku w Chung Hong. Pikieta miała na celu raz jeszcze przypomnieć pracownicom i pracownikom o pierwszym na strefie strajku, zorganizowanym przez komisję IP. W obawie przed pracowniczą solidarnością i rozprzestrzenianiem się oporu na strefie obie fabryki – Chung Hong i jego zleceniodawca LG Electronics – odwołały w ten dzień produkcję. Największa fabryka na strefie – czyli LG zatrudniająca kilka tysięcy osób – stanęła, a jej pracownicy mieli wolne.

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Sonderwirtschaftszonen als Keimstätten des Präkariats

Unter Sonderwirtschaftszonen versteht man von der Regierung ins Leben gerufene Gewerbegebiete, in denen die dort tätigen Unternehmen teilweise oder ganz von der Umsatzsteuer sowie von anderen lokalen Abgaben befreit sind. Damit erschöpfen sich aber keineswegs die Vorteile für die dortigen Investoren. Zusätzlich können diese auf eine ihnen kostenlos zur Verfügung gestellte Infrastruktur zurückgreifen, profitieren von direkten Zuschüssen über sogenannte Grants und werden umfangreich von einem breiten Netzwerk lokaler Einrichtungen, darunter von den Arbeitsagenturen, unterstützt. Ein nicht unwesentlicher Vorteil dieser Zonen ist auch die breite Verfügbarkeit billiger Arbeitskräfte, da diese meist in strukturschwachen Gebieten errichtet werden. Sonderwirtschaftszonen werden von zweckgebundenen Wirtschaftsunternehmen verwaltet, die einerseits durch den Staat und andererseits durch die Gemeinden gegründet werden, denen der Grund und Boden gehört, auf dem die entsprechende Wirtschaftszone entsteht. Obwohl diese gewinnbringend arbeiten sollen, sind sie von jedweder Besteuerung befreit.

Vorbilder für die polnischen Sonderwirtschaftszonen waren ähnliche Wirtschaftsförderungsmaßnahmen etwa in China, Irland oder Mexiko. Dort schuf man ebenfalls besonders günstige Bedingungen für die meist ausländischen Investoren, indem man ihnen eine steuerliche Sonderbehandlung in Aussicht stellte oder bestehende Regelungen aus den Bereichen Arbeits- und Gewerkschaftsrecht sowie Umweltschutzauflagen aufhob. In Polen dienten Sonderwirtschaftszonen dazu, den nach dem Umbruch 1989 eingeschlagenen neuliberalen Wirtschaftskurs zu festigen und gleichzeitig den rechtlichen Rahmen für die schon vorher betriebene Wirtschaftsförderung zu schaffen, welche darin bestand, ausländische Investoren von Steuern zu befreien und privatwirtschaftliche Investitionen im Allgemein zusätzlich zu bezuschußen. Die zunehmende Arbeitslosigkeit, eine Folge der Massenentlassungen in den Anfang der 90er Jahre privatisierten und zunehmend verschwindenden Staatsbetrieben, verlieh der Schaffung von Sonderwirtschaftszonen zusätzlichen Auftrieb.

Vor kurzem befand das polnische Wirtschaftsministerium, dass sich das Instrument der Sonderwirtschaftszonen als die einzige wirklich wirksame Wirtschaftsförderungsmaßnahme erwiesen hat. Die Fakten sprechen aber eine ganz andere Sprache. In den ersten gut 10 Jahren ihres Bestehens haben sich die Wirtschaftszonen so gut wie gar nicht entwickelt. Erst ab Mitte des vorrigen Jahrzehnts, als man damit begonnen hat, diese auf direkten Investorenwunsch einzurichten, lässt sich eine gewisse Belebung feststellen. Die Mehrheit der Flächen dieser Gewerbegebiete bleibt aber weiterhin ungenutzt und alle in den Sonderwirtschaftszonen getätigten Investitionen haben lediglich einen Anteil von 3% an der Gesamtsumme von Investitionen. Auch unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Beschäftigung spielen Sonderwirtschaftszonen keine große Rolle gemessen an der Gesamtwirtschaft. Im Jahr 2011 waren weniger als 2% der arbeitenden Bevölkerung dort angestellt. Es drängt sich also die Frage auf, wem diese Sonderwirtschaftszonen eigentlich nützen.

Dort, wo Sonderwirtschaftszonen gegründet wurden, herrscht weiterhin eine sehr hohe Arbeitslosigkeit, das wirtschaftliche Gefälle in der Bevölkerung vergrößert sich und die Lebensqualität hängt deutlich hinter der in den Großstädten zurück. Die Zonen beherbergen vor allem arbeitsintensive Produktionsbetriebe, die auf die breite Verfügbarkeit billiger Arbeitskräfte angewiesen sind. In Zeiten verbesserter Auftragslage greifen diese Unternehmen sehr häufig auf Leiharbeiter zurück, die über Leiharbeitsagenturen für wenige Wochen oder Monate eingestellt werden. Das Lohnniveau ist in den Zonen niedriger als in der Industrie insgesamt. Ähnlich verhält es sich mit dem Anteil gewerkschaftlich organisierter Angestellter. Die Sonderbehandlung der Investoren schlägt sich also nicht etwa in besseren Arbeitsbedingungen nieder – es ist genau so greßlich wie überall sonst.

Die Sonderwirtschaftszonen sichern dabei das Statusquo aus hoher Arbeitslosigkeit, niedrigen Löhnen, unzureichenden Umweltbestimmungen, einem erodierenden Arbeitsrecht und deutlich rückläufiger Vergewerkschaftung – alles angeblich zum Wohl der gnädigen Investoren, die Polens Wirtschaftskraft erhöhen. Sowohl lokale wie nationale Würdenträger nutzen die Sonderwirtschaftszonen gerne zur eigenen politischen Propaganda und prahlem etwa mit der Höhe der dort getätigten Investitionen. Bedauerlicherweise vermeiden sie es dabei, auf die weiterhin hohe Arbeitslosigkeit, die Arbeitsbedingungen oder die oft grenzwertigen, gewerkschaftsfeindlichen Praktiken der Investoren einzugehen.

Da dürften Fälle wie der Lockout, also die Entlassung, von 26 Beschäftigten des LG Clusters, das sind Firmen, die entweder direkt zu LG gehören oder unmittelbare Kooperationsverträge unterschrieben haben, kaum verwundern, so geschehen letztes Jahr in der Sonderwirtschaftszone Kobierzyce-Tarnobrzeg. Dort standen sich zwei Seiten gegenüber – die Investoren, gestärkt durch Steuernachlässe, Grants, umfassenden Rechtsbeistand – welcher ja ebenfalls von der Steuer absetzbar ist und unterstützt durch die Regierung, die lokale Verwaltung, Arbeitsagenturen und Zeitarbeitsfirmen sowie privates Sicherheitspersonal und auf der anderen Seite die Beschäftigten von Chung Hong El., eines der dort ansässigen Produktionsunternehmens, geeint in ihrem Bestreben, sich für bessere Arbeitsbedingungen einzusetzen.

Da kann wohl kaum von Chancengleichheit die Rede sein. Der Streik und der Lockout bei Chung Hong ist aber keineswegs ein Einzelfall der Beschneidung von Arbeitnehmerrechten in den polnischen Sonderwirtschaftszonen. Die dortigen Investoren gehen entschieden gegen die Gründung und jedwede Aktivitäten von Gewerkschaften vor. Im gleichen Cluster wurde vor kurzem die Vorsitzende einer Gewerkschaft entlassen, vor 2 Jahren sogar alle Beschäftigten, die gerade eine neue Gewerkschaftsorganisation gegründet hatten. Ähnliche Fälle wurden in letzter Zeit auch aus dem Zonen in Legnica und Mielec sowie aus der masurischen Sonderwirtschaftszone gemeldet.

Sonderwirtschaftszonen sind auch eine Folge der Aushöhlung demokratischer Entscheidungsprozesse. Die sie beherbergenden Gemeinden sind zunehmend überschuldet, auch durch die Kosten der Infrastrukturmaßnahmen und der direkten Investorenwerbung sowie der ausbleibenden Steuereinnahmen und müssen daher ihre Ausgaben kürzen. Als Folge dessen werden öffentliche Dienstleistungen – komunaler Wohnungsbau, öffentlicher Personennahverkehr, Kinderbetreuung – entweder deutlich verschlechtert oder ganz privatisiert, was wiederum zu Einschränkungen bei ihrer Verfügbarkeit und zu Preissteigerungen führt. Folglich ist selbst der Hungerlohn für die Arbeit in den Fabriken dieser Sonderwirtschaftszonen noch weniger wert.

Sonderwirtschaftszonen sind ein Mittel, um öffentliche Gelder in privat wirtschaftende Unternehmen, meist große internationale Konzerne, zu überführen. Sie werden mit der Notwendigkeit von Wirtschaftswachstum gerechtfertigt. Dies steht aber im klaren Widerspruch zu den Anforderungen einer gerechten und nachhaltigen Entwicklung, bei der öffentliche Gelder dafür eingesetzt werden, um die Lebensqualität der Bevölkerung zu erhöhen. Mittel, die sonst für die Befriedigung der Bedürfnisse der lokalen Bevölkerung eingesetzt werden könnten, werden so, entsprechend des neoliberalen Wirtschaftsförderungswahns, für Investitionen zweckentfremdet, die in Wirklichkeit nur einigen wenigen dienen.

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Przed sądem we Wrocławiu - film

Rok temu w Specjalnej Strefie Ekonomicznej pod Wrocławiem został zwolniony Krzysztof Gazda - pracownik fabryki Chung Hong. Związkowcy z Inicjatywy Pracowniczej odpowiedzieli strajkiem. Ponad 20 osób odeszło od taśmy produkcyjnej w geście solidarności z Gazdą. Wszyscy zostali dyscyplinarnie zwolnieni w czasie trwania akcji strajkowej. Obecnie walczą o swoje prawa w sądzie.

28 czerwca, dokładnie rok po tych wydarzeniach, miała odbyć się druga rozprawa Krzysztofa Gazdy. Pracownik walczy o przywrócenie do pracy i wypłatę odszkodowania. Wizyta w sądzie trwała jednak zaledwie kilka minut. Z powodu choroby Sędzi rozprawa została przeniesiona na 29 lipca, na godz. 9:00.

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5 lipca / „Nie jesteśmy maszynami!” - demonstracja i piknik z okazji pierwszej rocznicy strajku w Chung Hong.

Apel o uczestnictwo w ogólnopolskiej manifestacji w pod-strefie kobierzyckiej przeciwko łamaniu praw pracowniczych i wolności związkowych.

Pracujemy za grosze lub ponad nasze siły – na linii produkcyjnej, na kasie, na słuchawkach, w usługach publicznych, przy tymczasowych projektach, jako trybiki w korporacjach lub publicznej administracji. Doświadczamy wyzysku, kurczących się środków materialnych, niestabilności naszego codziennego życia. Równocześnie stoimy w obliczu coraz głębszego ograniczania społecznych zabezpieczeń naszych podstawowych potrzeb (jak edukacja, opieka, zdrowie i dach nad głową).

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"We are no machines" – Workers' Struggle in a Chinese Electronics Factory in Poland

by friends of gongchao (March 2013)

An electronics factory in a special economic zone, low wages, long working hours, hire-and-fire labor contracts – what we primarily hear from China, Malaysia, or Mexico, happens about 350 kilometers from Berlin, Germany, too. At the end of 2011, workers organized against the bad conditions in the Chung Hong Electronics factory, a Taiwanese-Chinese contract manufacturer that produces components for the Korean electronics multinational, LG, in the Wrocław-Kobierzyce special economic zone (SEZ) in South-West Poland. At first, Chung Hong tried to put the workers off and did not react to their demands. Later it tried to repress them. When the workers went on strike, the management dismissed a large part of the participants without notice. Many workers had joined the anarcho-syndicalist union Inicjatywa Pracownicza (Workers' Initiative), which, after the failure of the strike, started a campaign against Chung Hong, the working conditions in the Polish SEZs, and so-called junk-contracts (umowy śmieciowe). The Polish government has increasingly used such contracts since the beginning of the crisis in its attempt to further reduce labor rights. This article tries to shed light on, and discuss, the background and the development of the conflicts around Chung Hong.1

Special Economic Zones

Poland is the only member state of the European Union that has special economic zones (SEZs). In the years of the so-called transformation after 1989, the collapse of a big part of the former state industry caused an increase of unemployment to more than 20 percent. After 1995, the Polish government set up SEZs to attract transnational capital investments. Poland advertised its low wages and relatively well-trained work force, and it offered tax rebates, cheap land, customs reductions, and direct subsidies. The European Union treaties prohibit such zones, but before its accession in 2004, Poland negotiated that its 14 SEZs could continue to exist under certain conditions until 2020. A further extension is currently being discussed.

New SEZs could not be set up in Poland, but over the years more and more industrial areas were added to the existing zones. Some of these areas are far away from the zones they belong to. Today, the SEZs are legal constructions that, in fact, consist of hundreds of subzones spread out over the whole country. The subzone Wrocław-Kobierzyce with the Chung Hong factory for instance, is over 400 kilometers away from Tarnobrzeg, the SEZ it belongs to. Through the alignment of existing industrial areas, an increasing part of factory labor is integrated into the SEZs. Until now, about ten percent of the employees in manufacturing in Poland work in a SEZ.2 Among the biggest investors are international companies like Volkswagen, Fiat, General Motors, Toyota, Electrolux, Gilette, Michelin, Bridgestone and Kraft.3

After the beginning of the crisis in 2008, Poland was the only country in the EU without a single quarter year of shrinking GDP. Despite the economic growth, Polish workers have little reason for rejoicing. The unemployment rate has been rising since 2008, real wages stagnated in 2009 and have been falling since 2011.4

Poland is the leading country in the EU regarding precarious labor relations: The number of limited labor contracts increased from 5.8 percent in 2000 to 27.7 percent at the end of 2010. At that time the EU average was 14 percent. A further 20.9 percent of the employees in Poland, most of which were made up of young people, worked on the basis of contract work instead of labor contracts.5 Nowadays, these "junk-contracts" are even a topic for the big unions, parties, and the media. In the SEZs and in factories in general, contract work does not play a big role though. Instead, employees with limited labor contracts or those hired through temporary agencies make up a big part of the workforce.6

Chung Hong

The company Chung Hong was founded in Taiwan, but since 1996 the production facilities have been situated at several locations in the People's Republic of China: Suzhou, Tianjin, Shenyang and Yantai. Chung Hong is a contract manufacturer and produces mainboards for TVs at these locations e.g. for LG, Philips, BenQ, Acer, Kingston, and Samsung. In 2010, Chung Hong employed a total of 2,600 workers.7

The Chung Hong factory in Poland is situated 25 kilometers south of the city of Wrocław in an industrial area directly beside a highway. The South Korean electronics company LG settled there after 2004 and brought its suppliers too. One of them is Chung Hong Electronics, which produces mainboards, LG's monitors and TVs. The plant was opened in 2007. Today it has 200 employees. The production workers are divided into several groups. Each group wears different colored work coats and has to handle different work tasks: One group applies glue onto the board, the second group plugs components into the board, the third group tests the functions, and the forth group fixes defects. That way, 140 to 200 boards are produced every hour i.e. one every 15 to 30 seconds. Overlaying the functional division of work is a clear gendered division of labour: Men do the better paid work e.g. as machine setters, while women have to follow the machine rhythm and stay on the lowest wage levels even after years of service.

The workers earn between 1,500 and 1,600 złoty (about 380 euros) before tax, which includes wage supplements and bonuses for attendance and seniority; the temporary workers get 1,400 Złoty (340 euros).8 According to the Chung Hong workers this is even a bit less than in the neighboring companies in the SEZ. Most employees are young women from small cities near the border to the Czech Republic. That region is about 100 kilometers away from the Wrocław-Kobierzyce SEZ and has an unemployment rate of 20 to 30 percent. Only a few can afford their own car, and the journey on the overcrowded company bus takes one to two hours. So the workers spend 12 hours a day at work or commuting. Their children stay with grandmothers or other relatives because affordable places in kindergartens do not exist.

Officially, Chung Hong has a 5-day working week, depending on the season, with a two- or three-shift system. The working time is eight hours daily with a 20-minute lunch break, but the workers have to do overtime on a regular basis. In particular, Chung Hong orders the workers to work on Saturdays. The workers hate the compulsory overtime, but at the same time that's their only chance to increase their wages. Most workers have limited labor contracts for six months or one year and these contracts get prolonged until the company would legally be obliged to give the worker a permanent contract. Those sacked at this moment are often re-employed soon after, again with a limited contract. That way the company has no problem getting rid of workers it does not like anymore, and can keep workers who have "proved themselves". The workers feel the insecurity: "Here you never feel safe. One day you have work, but the next day you don't. You never know who will be affected."

In 2009, Chung Hong used the financial crisis as an excuse to tighten working conditions in the factory. Wages as well as supplements and the social fund (used to pay the holiday and Christmas bonus etc.) were cut, and more work was divided among less workers. At the same time, the tone of management got more confrontational, and precarious employment was significantly expanded. Now, in peak seasons with many orders in Spring and Fall, up to 50 percent of the production workers are temporary workers, employed for a few days and up to several months., If they call in sick just once, their contract is often not extended.

Intervention and Organizing

In the Fall of 2011, a young sociologist, member of the anarcho-syndicalist union Inicjatywna Pracownicza (IP, Workers' Initiative)9 worked in the plant as a production worker for several months. She wanted to do research on the working conditions in SEZs for her PhD thesis.10 She was in part inspired by the works of the Chinese sociologist Pun Ngai, in particular the book Made in China, in which Pun Ngai describes the work on the assembly lines in an electronics factory in Shenzhen, China, in the mid 1990s, including the exploitation, the special situation of women who constituted the majority of production workers, the daily forms of resistance, the role of Chinese and transnational capital, as well as the complicity of the state in enforcing work in the globalized factories.11

The sociologist worked at Chung Hong as a production worker, interviewed workers on the conditions in the factory, and distributed information on the IP. When her limited contract terminated shortly before Christmas, an IP group had already been formed in the factory. This group put forward demands to the management and prepared for industrial action.

Beforehand, there had not been any union in the factory. A small circle of workers had been thinking for a while about how to act against the deterioration of the working conditions. Among other things, they had met with representatives of various unions, but faced disinterest regarding their situation. The meeting with the IP activists was more promising, and the IP activists explained to them how they could set up a union group within the framework of Polish labor law.12

While the IP often plays the role of a left-wing union opposition in companies with other active unions, in formerly union-free companies like Chung Hong, it is different. Workers from such companies are often looking for contacts to a union in order to give a form to a smouldering conflict or their ongoing struggle. The IP is more prepared to get engaged in difficult conflicts than the big unions, but the workers decision to form an IP group does not always seem to be based on a political decision. Since such conflicts often end with the dismissal of the workers, some of these groups also dissolve soon after.

Those who took the initiative at Chung Hong were from the small town Nowa Ruda, about 80 kilometers from the plant. Some of them had known each other on a private basis beforehand. Most of them had been working at the Chung Hong plant for some time and had unlimited contracts.13 Collective organizing with other workers proved difficult though. Because of shift-work, long working hours and the commuting from different home towns, assemblies had to take place before the beginning of a shift or on free Sundays. Common discussions were almost impossible because the workers lived far away from each other and had no car. Nevertheless, within three months, about 80 out of the 200 employees joined the IP, among them some temporary workers. With the exception of a few members who enjoyed special legal protection against dismissals, the other members of the IP group in the company remained anonymous to protect themselves against management repression.

Already in December 2011, the IP group had informed the Chung Hong management about its existence and put forward demands: a wage increase of 300 złoty per month for all, permanent employment for the temporary workers, restoration of the yearly inflationary adjustment and the social fund, abolition of compulsory overtime, no cancellation of the company bus system. In addition, the IP group demanded information it was entitled to get as a union, about shift-plans, wages, the social fund etc., and it asked for a bulletin board. The Chung Hong management did not react at first, and then tried several tricks, delayed the process, and threatened the workers. It also hired an international law firm that consults companies in Polish SEZs as well as a new personnel manager known as a "union buster". The few union members the management knew by name were subsequently controlled and harassed.

The IP group did everything it could to reach the position where it could legally start a strike, and tried to avoid any formal mistakes. Therefore, it went along with the delaying tactics of the Chung Hong management. When the collective bargaining, including the mediation phase, did not bring any results, the IP group scheduled a strike ballot for June 2012. The management continued to put pressure on the union group and demanded to organize the strike ballot itself. The activists could not enforce their own plans and tried to conduct the strike ballot on the company buses. That clearly shows that until then it had not managed to develop enough practical strength within the factory – it had not been successful in holding assemblies in the plant without company interference or even just in getting a bulletin board. Under such circumstances (and because union people with ballot boxes could not get on all the company buses) only 54 percent of the workers finally took part in the strike ballot. 89 percent of those voted for a strike, but taking the low participation into account, that is the equivalent of only 48 percent of the permanently employed workforce. The temporary workers could not participate in the strike ballot because they are not even considered to be part of the workforce. Therefore, already during the preparation of the strike, the union group's active workers did not manage to overcome the multiple divisions between unlimited, limited, and temporary workers as well as between people from different home towns.

The Strike

The strike was due to begin on Monday, July 2, 2012, one week after the strike ballot had ended. On Thursday, June 28, the most prominent activist of the union group was kicked out of the company bus by the company security guards and his supervisor. He was given a letter stating his dismissal without notice. When the workers in the factory heard about this, the leaders of the union group and 15 out of 50 workers on the late shift at the plant downed tools spontaneously. The national leadership of the IP confirmed by phone that a protest strike against the dismissal of a unionist who is participating in industrial action is covered by the labor law. In order to escape the permanent surveillance in the workshop, the striking workers went to the canteen and formed a strike committee. They had not expected that the supervisors would immediately lock the door between the canteen and workshop, cutting off all contacts to the rest of the workers who were still on the production lines.

The management declared the spontaneous strike illegal and tried to summon the striking workers into the office one by one – without success. Later the company security guards came and ordered the striking workers to either stay in the canteen or leave the company premises. Both sides called the police, the management because of an "illegal strike", the workers because of unlawful detention. The police came, but left again without intervening. After some hours, the striking workers left the factory and were driven home in special company buses, separated from the other workers.

The next day, 14 more workers joined the strike during the early shift, but that was it: no one joined after that. Originally, the unlimited strike action decided on during the strike ballot was supposed to begin after the weekend. However, due to the isolation of the spontaneous strike the dynamic turned against the activists. By Friday, the management had already put pressure on those workers who stayed in the workshop and asked them to sign declarations of loyalty to the company, stating that they would not take part in the strike. Many did actually sign these declarations. Contact between the striking workers and the others was largely prevented by taking the strikers to the plant in separate company buses and not allowing them to enter the workshop. Finally, only 29 workers participated in the strike – not even half of the union members.

The locked-out workers continued this minority strike until July 10, mostly by gathering in the company parking lot with banners saying "We are no machines", "The management lies", and "An end to exploitation". They were supported by sympathizers on the road outside the company gate.

On July 10, all striking workers were sacked (with one exception)14: 24 workers got a letter of dismissal without notice, four union members who were protected against dismissal by the labor law were released from work indefinitely. So the strike had practically finished. Since unions in Poland give no strike pay (the IP would not have the resources to do so anyway), and since the wage had not been sufficient to get by until the end of the month even without a strike, a long-lasting, symbolic continuation of the strike as a form of protest outside the plant (as, for instance, at Gate Gourmet in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2005/6) was out of the question. The sacked workers have a good chance of getting a court verdict for compensation or even reinstatement, but these court cases take a very long time in Poland, so that was not relevant in that situation.

The Campaign

The IP reacted to this unexpected development with a public campaign. It launched an appeal to send protest letters and emails to Chung Hong and LG, and it asked for financial support for the striking workers. It also proposed to organize rallies in other countries in front of LG offices and plants. Sympathizers translated strike reports and demands in several languages (including Chinese and Korean). 

On July 11, one day after the dismissals, the sacked workers and supporters demonstrated through the SEZ from the main LG plant to the Chung Hong factory. During the shift change they distributed leaflets to LG workers, pointing at the common problems in the factories and asking for their support of the strike at Chung Hong. Meanwhile, the news had spread that LG workers had been used at Chung Hong as scabs to keep up production.

On July 16, about 30 sacked Chung Hong workers and supporters occupied the office of the Polish Agency for Industrial Development in Warsaw for several hours. This state agency is responsible for licensing factories in Polish SEZs. The demonstrators demanded that the agency intervene and act against the illegal lock-out of the workers by Chung Hong. As expected, the agency did nothing of the sort, but the action caught the attention of the media. Some media reports attacked the anarchists and their "mole" at Chung Hong (the sociologist), but others focused on the working conditions at the factory and in the SEZs. Some opposition politicians used the opportunity to publicly declare their solidarity with the workers. Clutching at straws, the workers themselves held a press conference in the Polish parliament; however, this did not change their situation in any way.15

Shortly after the end of the strike, Chung Hong began its three-week company holiday. According to the workers, the company had massive problems with productivity and quality when the holiday ended. The sacked workers had been amongst the most experienced employees and the newly hired staff had to be trained first. At least one sacked worker was offered a job in September and accepted it after talking to the others who had been dismissed.

During the strike, money had been collected for a strike fund, but that was not enough to support 24 people and their families for a longer period. Since the job center suspended any support for the workers because they had been sacked for "disciplinary" reasons, they had no other choice but to look for new jobs immediately. Some now work in other companies in the SEZ, others commute over the border to the Czech Republic.

Conclusion

The workers and the IP explain the defeat on the one hand with the unfavorable balance of power, on the other hand with various "tactical" mistakes: The worker activists had no experience with industrial action. Well, they are not the only ones in post-transformation Poland. Their inexperience could be the cause for underestimating the unscrupulousness of the company management. Even the IP as a militant union had not been involved in such a case before and was not prepared for the harshness of the conflict either.

Would it have been cleverer to wait for two days after the first dismissal and to start the strike action two days later as scheduled, instead of reacting to the provocation with ill-considered actions? That could have surely demotivated the most active workers, and it could have looked like a tacit admission of defeat; in addition, the management could have tried to play other tricks anyway.

The attempt to include LG workers and to address the whole "flat-screen production unit" across the Wrocław-Kobierzyce SEZ came too late. A struggle against productive cooperation along the production chain could have helped to overcome the disguise of this cooperation that is based on splitting-up production in small companies, and to develop more disruptive power. However, these productions chains only become visible when a struggle at one point paralyzes the whole chain. In that sense, including the LG workers was no precondition for a successful strike at the supplier Chung Hong, but could have rather been its result if the strike at Chung Hong had actually had an effect on the production at LG.

These are "tactical" questions, but the main problem was that the activists stayed isolated during the strike. This also leads to the question of whether the struggle, which followed legal norms and used union methods, worked out for the workers' group in the way it had expected after all. Before setting up a union the activists had said their colleagues stayed passive out of fear of repression and dismissal. Therefore, the aim was to create a safe framework – the union – that would relieve the workers of that fear. The IP had supported the workers in that analysis.

At first, they seemed to be successful because a big part of the workforce joined the union and finally voted to strike during the ballot. However, during the strike, the activists were standing alone because those who participated were mostly a minority made up of young people who had worked in the company for a while and had permanent labor contracts. Participation did not include the majority of workers with limited contracts, nor the older workers. The division between permanent workers and those with limited contracts or temporary workers did not seem to be the main factor though, but the fact that the group of friends from Nowa Ruda had not managed to expand communication beyond their group. The majority of workers never went beyond a passive compliance with the union and consent to the strike, because the factory regime and the separation based on the living situation, the bus schedules and the lack of money, made collective discussions very hard, if not impossible.

Instead of focusing on "union activity" and the ability to engage in collective bargaining, a small but determined group could have experimented with actions outside the legal or union framework – as organized "quality failures" or slow-downs – actions that could have put pressure on management while the workers would not have had to step out of anonymity as much. These actions could have also included the temporary workers.

Within the IP, the defeat of the strike has triggered different reactions. A rather syndicalist current sees the reasons for the failure at Chung Hong on a tactical level and seems to be willing to act even more "like a proper union" in future conflicts; that would blur the differences between them and the mainstream unions further. An activist current sees the union not as an end in itself but as a means to make contact with militant workers and to intervene politically in the class struggle. This current believes that this also works in cases like Chung Hong, and it blanks out the problems connected with the union form. However, strikes like the one at Chung Hong lead to frustration, especially among younger IP activists who were especially active and engaged as external supporters and had expected more political results. People from this current also voice some critique of the union as a strategy.

What do the sacked workers think? Despite the failed strike, they see their struggle in retrospect not as fundamentally wrong or in vain. The Polish development model – in 2009 celebrated by Prime Minister Tusk as the "green island" in a Europe shaken by the crisis – offers no perspectives for workers, and they know that better than anyone. The strike did not work out in this form; but that some people began to resist at all was an important experience for the workers, and one that was visible for many others. This experience could be a starting point for conflicts to come.

Footnotes

1 This article was first published in German in the book Pun Ngai, Lu Huilin, Guo Yuhua, Shen Yuan (ed.): iSlaves – Ausbeutung und Widerstand in Chinas Foxconn-Fabriken (Exploitation and Resistance in China's Foxconn-Factories), Wien, 2013: http://www.gongchao.org/de/islaves-buch

2  At the end of 2011, 241,594 workers were officially employed in the Polish SEZs (http://orka.sejm.gov.pl/Druki7ka.nsf/0/F000FD11858918DEC1257A100028ECD0/%24File/446.pdf). That is the equivalent of 1,7 percent of the total of 14,145,000 employees in Poland or 9.9 percent of the total of 2.440.300 employees in manufacturing (http://www.stat.gov.pl/cps/rde/xbcr/gus/oz_maly_rocznik_statystyczny_2012.pdf).

3 http://orka.sejm.gov.pl/Druki7ka.nsf/0/F000FD11858918DEC1257A100028ECD0/%24File/446.pdf

4 http://www.stat.gov.pl/cps/rde/xbcr/gus/POZ_prezentacja_Konferencja_25_wrzesnia_2012.pdf; this official wage statistic neither includes contract work nor employees of small firms with less than ten employees. See http://sredniaplaca.pl

5 http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2011/11/articles/pl1111019i.htm, http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=lfsq_etpga&lang=en, http://www.pip.gov.pl/html/pl/sprawozd/10/pdf/r05.pdf

6 We do not have statistical data on this. Before the strike at Chung Hong, the proportion of workers with limited contracts or contracts with temporary agencies was about 80–85 percent of the company's workfore.

7 http://www.chunghong.com/aboutus.html

8 In 2011, the minimum wage in Poland was 1,386 złoty before tax. In 2012 it was 1.500 złoty before tax. Chung Hong workers said that some of them earn less than the minimum wage.

9 The IP came out of the anarchist scene and is still closely linked to it. In 2004, the IP was officially set up as a union after a merger with disappointed left-wing unionists from other small unions. The IP is organized according to principles of direct democracy and has no paid staff or bureaucrats. See http://ozzip.pl/

10 Her research report is available in Polish at http://www.ekologiasztuka.pl/pdf/strefy_raport_maciejewska_2012.pdf

11 Pun Ngai: Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace. Durham, 2005. In Polish: Pun Ngai: Pracownice chińskich fabryk. Poznań, 2010. One chapter of the book was published in German as part of: Pun Ngai/Li Wanwei: Dagongmei. Arbeiterinnen aus Chinas Weltmarktfabriken erzählen. Berlin, 2008, see http://www.gongchao.org/de/dagongmei-buch.

12 In Poland, a union can legally become active in a company if at least ten percent of the employees form a union group. In case it is the first union in the company, it automatically represents all employees. Strikes can only be called by unions. The collective bargaining process is similar to the one in Germany: cancellation or termination of the collective agreement (in case there was one), demands, negotiations, strike ballot, mediation, and finally, but only permitted as the last resort: strike.

13 At the beginning, Chung Hong had limited the labor contracts to such a short period that some of the employees had to be hired permanently after a relatively short time (because of several contract renewals). Therefore, today 15 to 20 percent of the Chung Hong workforce have unlimited contracts, more than in other similar companies in SEZs.

14 One striking female worker had called in sick during the spontaneous strike.

15 The campaign and its media echo probably played a role in putting the "junk contracts" on the public agenda, even leading to an official political discourse. However, this was detached from the situation at Chung Hong where the low wages and bad working conditions were not based on contract work outside the labor law but on ordinary working contracts (regulated by the labor law).

Published on: http://www.gongchao.org/en/texts/2013/strike-in-chinese-company-in-polish-s

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Poland: Special Exploitation Zones

We publish below an interview to two activists of the Polish union Inicjatywa Pracownicza (Workers’Initiative), that we realized on the occasion of the presentation of the documentary movie «Special Exploitation Zones» organized in Bologna, and another documentary concerning the living and working conditions of women in Wałbrzych. Poland is the only UE member State which established Special Economic Zones (SEZ), high-exploitation areas where the multinational enterprises connect national spaces to transnational fluxes of commodities thanks to special tax-regimes and worsening the workers’ condition. In Summer 2012 the factory Chung Hong Electonics, placed in one of these SEZ, was the theatre of a strike. The workers refused to activate the machineries for two weeks. I. and G. describes the living condition and the organization of the strike, the obstacles and the perspectives opened up for the workers, mainly for women.

What were the working conditions in Chung Hong electronics?

I: The workers at Chung Hong receive very low salaries, usually the minimum, which in Poland is 300 € after taxes, 400 euros before. More than half of that goes away in rent, so your left with around 150 €, even less, which is practically nothing. On the other hand you are forced to work overtime, around 150 hours throughout the year, but obviously many workers do much more, and if production is high the workers have to work 16 hours a day in two shifts, and if they refuse they can be fired.

We observe the precarization of working conditions in the sense that people are usually dismissed from work they can return but when they have been previously dismissed they can only return on elastic conditions, they get temporary contracts. That was the situation in FIAT, where 1450 workers were fired this year and one month ago around 150 got the possibility to return to work but as temporary workers with a temporary contract and for lower wages. In Chung Hong half the workers are employed by job agencies when production is high. Usually there are 200 workers but when production is really high the job agencies hire another 200. If production is low there are just the 200, and most of them have temporary contracts, for two or three years usually. The very important thing is that it takes at least 2 or 3 hours for the workers to get to work, only a few of them live in Wroclaw which is 20km (half an hour) from the factory, but most of them come from cities where unemployment reaches 30% or more, at least 100 km away. As a consequence if they have to do overtime it takes them 2 hours to get there, then 16 hours working, then another two hours to get home. So they have just a few hours to reproduce themselves, or spend with their children, its a horrible situation.

G: This is an assembly line factory, workers on the assembly line have one break of 20 minutes in a shift which is 8 hours, if they want to go to the toilet they have to get permission from their supervisor. Some of the workers because they work with electricity are connected to the floor with cables so when they are working they cannot move too much. In the factory there are also people who measure time of work, sometimes behind the backs of the workers, this person from the office who all day measures their work-times, typical fordist organization of labor.

I: Another thing to underline relates to LG. Chung Hong is a supplier for LG, and it’s located in a Zone created for LG. At LG there was an accident,  a worker was killed by a machine because he didn’t have safety training, he hadn’t been told how to operate the machine, and he died because of this. Job inspectors have conducted a sort of investigation, and we know that workers are given fake «trainings» in how to use these machines, and sometimes they are burned by electricity or like this worker get killed.

G: In many cases there are these fake trainings. Most of the time the jobs on the assembly line are quite simple, after a couple of days they are working regularly, but they don’t get any wages for this «training» period.

So, how did you organize the struggle and the strike and what were the outcomes of the strike?

I:Workers from Chung Hong joined our union two years ago and after half a year they entered a labour dispute because it was impossible to get something from the boss, he didn’t want to agree for nothing, just for nothing, and that’s why workers were so annoyed that they decided to enter a labour dispute.If you are a worker in Poland and you want to organize a legal strike you have to pass three steps and after those three steps you have to organize a referendum; so workers passed the three steps, it took one month and then they organized a referendum, but it was really hard to organize it because the employer didn’t let them organize it inside the factory, so they had to organize it in buses. Usually, they go, as I said before, they go to work from the cities which are like 100 km from the factory and employer organize transport for them, and they made this referendum in buses and during the referendum, almost at the referendum, the leader of strike, G, was fired, because he was actually the leader, so he was dismissed from work. And then the workers from the factory decided that they go on strike; on the referendum, workers voted for the strike, so most of them wanted to go on strike. But most of them didn’t go on strike, and it was because the people from offices, office workers, and administrative work directors and so on were really close to production workers and they controlled them whether they go on strike or not and workers were so scared of them that they decided to stay in the factory and they resigned from strike. At the end 24 people went on strike and after two weeks they were dismissed from work, and they got disciplinary dismissal. It means that when they were dismissed they didn’t have unemployment benefit and they didn’t have any welfare, nothing, just nothing, they stayed without any income. So we tried to organize a kind of special fund, strike fund for them, we collected money for this was the most important thing for us, because among the people who were on strike there were single mothers who stayed without any income. It was June and July, so in September the children went to school and didn’t have any money for books, for nothing, so we tried to collect money for them. Right now we have a cases incurred and we also organize everything connected with this. But it’s really difficult to win it and it will take another few years till these cases will be finished. And if workers win those cases is because they demand competition because they think that they were fired illegally. If they will win, they will get 1000 euro after 2 years so it’s like nothing.

During the strike, workers couldn’t get inside the factory, it was like 40 degrees or even more. It was hot, there were horrible high temperatures, they couldn’t go to the toilette, they were in front of the factory, they couldn’t get in buses for workers, the employers hire special buses only for them, because they want to separate them from all workers. They couldn’t talk with other workers, nothing. It was really hard time for them, especially because they couldn’t use toilette. They made pee in front of media cause they didn’t have any choice. As a union, we of course try to support them, we have organized demonstration around special economic zones, pickets, we stay with them all the time, of course we organized support from other groups and other unions, just a union August 80, quite big in Poland, also support them, another organization decides to support them, and we also organized pickets, ones organized special occupations of agency, like public agency, which it is responsible for special economic zones, because they give permissions to companies. If some company wants to join special economic zones, this company has to get permissions and this public agency, an industrial development agency, it’s public, and it gives the permissions for the company, so we organized occupations of the main office of this agency, demanding that if they give permissions to the companies they should check if this company respects the labour’s rights or not.

Yousaidthatalotofworkerswerewomen,whatcanyousayabouttheimpactofthesestruggleonthelifeofthesewomen?

I: Right now we observe that therearealotofwomenwhoaretakingpartinmanystruggles. For example they take part in struggles which are linked to housing problems because houses are connected to the production area, but also in factory we observe that many women are active. In this struggle also many women took part. It affected them a lot. Therewerewomenwhoweresinglemothersandtheystayedwithoutanyincome, without any welfare, they didn’t get anything, so they worked because they didn’t want to be dependent on their families. After the strike, they started to be dependent on their families again and it was quire problematic for them because they had come back to live with their families, father and mother, and also they were dependent on family income. On the other hand, we know that if a woman goes on strike and starts some struggles, sometimes social workers can go to them and check if they are good mothers or not. It never happens to men, but ifwomenstartstruggles,itisquiteacommonsituationthatasocialworkercheckswhetheryouareagoodmotherornot. It is a very repressive situation, women are threatened and they are in danger that they can lose their children. There are also other women who are also affected by the struggle in a positive way. Actually when I met them for first time they were really dependent on their husbands because they were married and they couldn’t do nothing alone, husbands were always with them and they didn’t let them be active in the union, so it was really hard for them to come to the meetings, to the union meetings. Usually they couldn’t do that and they had to have some arguments and clashes with husbands just to come to the meeting. There was one woman who, after the strike, her husband kicked her out of the house because he said that he doesn’t accept her activity in the union and her other activities, so she decided to just leave him and divorce him. I think it was a positive experience for her because right now she is a totally free person and she is not dependent on her husband who was really despotic. She is still active in the union and some others are active in the union after one year and I have really positive feelings about this because it was really a hard experience for them, especially for Yola, because she lost her job. On the other hand, shelostherhusbandbutshefoundsomethinginthestruggles and she still believes that the struggle was important and her struggles are important. So, it was really a positive experience.

Lastquestion:whydidyouchoosetofoundyourownunion?

G: It’s a long story. We come from anarchist groups in Poland and this is our basic political  background. In our city we just established a so called section of Anarchist Federation 10 years ago. Some of the people from anarchist milieu in our city around 2000-2001 started to be interested in labour issue, in the union stuff, with influence of anarcho-syndicalism and we got connections with the workers from different places of Poland and from different unions. We established very strong connections with workers from Cegielski factory. In1956theworkersofthisfactoryorganizedthefirstbigworkers’riotagainstthecommunistregimesoit’safactorywithatraditionofworkersresistance.Around 2002-2003, there was the last peak of workers’ struggles in Poland so we, with the workers of this particular factory, joined the national committee of support of the workers protest. We went to many protests and, after this experience, in 2004 we established a formal union. It was the idea of the workers from this particular factory, from Cegielski. They wanted an independent union. They had been before in the union «Solidarity 80». So our union was made by people from «Solidarity» who didn’t agree with «Solidarity». This particular group from Cegielski didn’t want to be in that union anymore, it was too bureaucratic for them and not enough militant so weestablishedtogetherin2004the «Workers’Initiative».

I: At the beginning there weren’t many women, there were some, but not too many. Now there are a lot of women in «Workers’ Initiative» because we see that in factories and other places workisreallyfeminized, especially unskilled work; this is because, of course, women agree more than men for lower wages and stuff like this. Even if we have to deal with the situation that, on the one hand, employers try to use gender division against workers and try to block women’s activities in the factories, on the other hand sometimes local authorities do the same: they send police or social workers to women activists. Even if things like that happen, we see that women try to organize themselves as workers in factories and, on the other hand, on different levels like reproduction, housing problems, and stuff like this.

http://www.connessioniprecarie.org/2013/06/06/poland-special-exploitation-zones/

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