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Workers Initiative as a target of employers' and state's assault

In 2002 and 2003 the very high unemployment appeared in Poland. Official statistics were saying the unemployment rate has exceeded 20%. Over 3.5 millions workers didn't have job. In addition many people have “fallen out” the labour market. Trying to protect themselves against unemployment they have become pensioners (persons, permanently or for a longer period, unable to work) or retired. In Poland the average of retiring age is about 58 today and this is one of the lowest in EU. High unemployment caused also low wages, awful working conditions and the weakness of trade unions loosing every month thousands of their members.

As the time passed the reality got better. Economic situation and dynamic development of Asian countries led to increase of raw materials, steel, ships and industrial devices prices. Though the transition in 1989 and de-industrialisation, Poland has still remained important global potentate of industrial production – therefore dynamic development of China and India contributed indirectly to improvement of polish labour market situation. Moreover, since April 2004, Poland is a member of European Union; the countries like Great Britain or Ireland have opened, without any limits, their labour markets for the Poles. Probably over one million of mainly young Poles has managed every year to find work  (regular or casual) abroad, first of all, in two of above-mentioned countries, but also in German agriculture. Unemployment in Poland decreased to the level of 8% (2008), what evoked strong workers claim pressure which led to the pointing increase of wages.

Responding to the workers' and trade unions' demands, employers, who with ever more effort could find cheap and humble labour force, have begun the fight with unions activists. Many of illegal trade unions' activists dismissals were connected with persons, who organised strikes and protests before. In a case of Workers Initiative the situation was like that.  

The first of Workers Initiative activists dismissed was Sławek Kaczmarek. In the middle of 2003 he organised strike to protect 500 workplaces in Uniontex, in Łódź (textile industry). The company has not survived but on its ruins the new one, with the same name, has risen. It employed 150 people and Kaczmarek was fired in December 2004, just after he had founded the Workers Initiative trade union and threatened management with protests again.

In the end of 2006, group of women in Greenkett company (Spanish capital), close to Poznań, organised the wildcat strike. Unfortunately this hasn't changed anything so workers (the women) decided to ask Workers Initiative for help and in January 2007 they have brought the works organisation into being. In the same year two activists were fired first – Jolanta Szypura i Aurelia Włodarczyk – and then, in October 2007, Łukasz Sibilak lost his job too.

In November 2006 Bartosz Kantorczyk was the originator of wildcat strike in the Post of Poland. It has started in Gdansk first, then spread all over the country. Workers of the Post in Gdansk, who have initiated the strike, made a decision to found Workers Initiative. Through the whole 2007 and half of 2008 the Post of Poland management attempted to get rid of Kantorczyk. He was eventually disciplinarily discharged in June 2008.

Marcel Szary, the WI member, is a union activist of many years in Cegielski Factory (Poznań), which is well-known in Poland as, in 1956, it became seeds of one of the most important workers protest in the times of communist regime. Since then Cegielski is a symbol of workers struggles and in this sense it has political meaning. WI in Cegielski, since 2006, claimed the high rises, in 2007 and the beginning of 2008 organised series of work-breaks, what finally led to 30% rises. There were many attempts to get rid of Marcel Szary. He fell ill with cancer in the middle of 2007. Although the protests still took place for all the time and after Marcel's return from hospital, beginning with november 2007, he went on with union activity in Cegielski. Now the public prosecutor's office accuses him of illegal strikes organisation. The trial still goes on.

WI activists were dismissed not only because of the strikes and protests organisation, but also for attempts of founding a trade union among other reasons. Jacek Rosołowski from Kostrzyn was fired twice; first, in March 2006, he lost his job in the cleaning company - Impel TOM; next, in December 2008, in TRANS Company (building industry). Piotr Krzyżaniak, the WI activist working in supermarkets, was illegally fired first in Auchan (December 2007), then in ALMA (December 2008). At the turn of November and December 2008 even 5 of WI members were fired in the Office of Statistics in Opole, so was the union initiator, Dorota Rosa, among them. They counteracted mobbing and demanded for recall of the office manager appointed a year earlier. Since the beginning of WI activity in September 2004, altogether almost 20 times our activists have been dismissed, mainly with hard violation of the law, for their syndicalist activity.

Of course not only WI is persecuted by employers and state, so are the activists of other trade unions. In December 2005, for instance, Dariusz Skrzypczak, the activist of Solidarity Trade Union from Poznań, was fired after he had made a statement for press saying he could support WI, which called for a strike action in Goplana - the factory of chocolate products (the present name is Jutrzenka S.A.) In the middle of 2007 he was restored to job by the court sentence, after many-months intense social campaign. Krzysztof Łabądź, the activist of Sierpień'80 Trade Union, was fired two times - including the dismissal on the beginning of 2008, for organising the famous in Poland strike in Budryk coal mine. Every time he was restored to work. Yet it must to be said, especially according to the fact that WI is a small union, that our organisation has become the target of concentrated attack. More information about persecutions on our activists is available, in English, on our website www.ozzip.pl .

Currently, because of repression’s, a number of our factory organisations has found itself in crisis, some had to be unfounded. At the same time the wave of dismissals in Poland is foreshadowed. Probably in the closest future not less than ½ million workers will loose their jobs. In addition many Poles abroad get fired, mainly in Ireland touched by recession. Some estimations say that about 20 thousands people monthly is coming back, most of them don't find job in Poland. Though hard situation WI is portending the development of new factory organisations and protests all over the country.

OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza
Komisja Krajowa

ul. Kościelna 4/1a, 60-538 Poznań
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