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In defence of union privileges

In Poland lately there were a lot of violations of union privileges. What's more - it is taking place in the country, where not so long ago workers have fought for free trade unions and they paid an excessive price for their liberality - the price of long standing jail or even life.

In this context to-day's attempts of people's actively engaged in union work persecutions by employers move disgust. Especially that those employers very often use protection of the police and the civil service. Human right and dignity don't matter any more - the most important is the profit of an investor and an owner. In the name of this kind of logic the lawlessness is taking place - because you are a member of trade union or you want to organise one - you can be dismissed, turned into the street, intimidated, you can become a victim of inexcusable violence.

In march 2001 - four actively engaged in union work people from OPZZ Konfederacja Pracy (Work Confederation) who had wanted to organise trade union in supermarkets net OBI were dismissed. In Warsaw and Lublin took place the pickets of solidarity with this case. Investors and owners of super and hypermarkets break the labour law very often, what was confirmed by suitable reports of the National Labour Inspection. There are also numerous cases when the staff is intimidated so people can't organise plant's commissions of trade unions and they are afraid of demanding for human dignity. In statement given to "Dziennik Polski" ("Polish Journal") 19.03.2001 the headmaster of national Labour Inspection said, that in most of the cases in super and hypermarkets the problem is in workers dignity, not in the money.

At 18th February 2002 the workers of Gdynia Shipyard S.A. have started the strike. The direct cause of it was the dismissals of 30 people, about 1000 people have started the occupation strike as an action of solidarity.

The Shipyard's workers advanced 13 social postulates. The management of the plant has called the strike illegal.

The worker's action has defeated after a week. Since than the Gdynia Shipyard Workers Trade Union "Stoczniowiec" is fighting in defence of its existence. The leaders of the trade union - the chairman Leszek Świętczak and vice-chairmen Tadeusz Czechowski and Jan Szopiński - were disciplinary dismissed, in spite of the trade unions law. The management made them responsible for the strike and wants to made the "Stoczniowiec" Trade Union to change its authorities, at the same time it refuse the unionists the right to gather on the shipyards area. Lately some news about the pressure that superiors bring to bear on workers has appeared - unionists should leave the union if they don't want to lose their job.
Similar situation took place in Brzeg, in Kama Foods Plants, where workers have demanded the payment of back pay. Many times they were organising pickets in front of the plant as well as in the city area. At 29th July 2002 took place another demonstration, after which the management of the plant illegally (in spite of trade unions law) fired 8 active unionists (from "Solidarity'80"). National Labour Inspection has informed that in this case the employer has broken the trade unions law.

Also in Elbląg the owner of the clothing plants "Hetman" has fired 98 dressmakers that wanted to defends their rights (the employer haven't paid the salaries on time for two years) and they decided to start up a trade union. At 11th January 2003 1500 people have marched through the city streets in defence of "Hetman's" workers.

Unionists are repressed not only by employers but also by the police. After a demonstration of shipyard's workers 22nd October 2002 Warsaw, the police beat the unionist from Gdynia Shipyard (NSZZ "Solidarity" Hieronim Chmielewski. This event took place several hundred meters from the government seat, already after the demonstration. " I was walking Agrykola Street when suddenly some police athletes without uniforms hunted me down. I was hit in the head, overthrown and kicked" said Chmielewski to Polish Press Agency. The shipyard worker with broken nose, black eye and bruises has found himself on the police office. In official record - which he didn't sign - is written that he have been throwing stones and bootless into policemen.
Chmielewski is accused and the only witnesses in the case are the policemen. Instead the beating up was immortalised by several photographers and was observed by dozen or so people.

The very odd event of unexcused use of violence by the police towards legally protesting unionists took place in Cables Factory in Ożarów. In the night 26th November the police together with the gourd from IMPEL company, moved the jamming workers by force. More than a dozen of workers have been hurt.

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Also in Poznań we can observe how employers make things against the unionists. 20th December 2001 in Sulzer Chemtech Poland (the part of great Swiss Company Sulzer Chemtech) in Wysogotowo near Poznań a group of workers started up the founders committee of trade union. At 21st February 2002 the trade union was on record. At the same day a notice was given to Rafał Jackowiak the chairman of the new organisation. On the second day the president of the company - Andrzej Łyko convened a staff meeting where he was slandering Jackowiak and disputing the point of trade union's existence. Finally in result of members' intimidation - the trade union has collapsed. Only part of people actively engaged in organisation decided to start at 15th Jun a section of Work Confederation trade union (Konfederacja Pracy). At 12th August the Labour Court passed the judgement in which it dictates to reinstate Rafał Jackowiak to work. The president of the company again attacked Jackowiak (active in Work Confederation) and fired him once more breaking the law (at 21st October 2002). At 20th January 2003 another trial in his case took place.

In H. Cegielski Poznań S.A. (HCP) Halina Duda was dismissed because of her affiliation to trade union (KNSZZ "Solidarity'80"). She had been on the list of 328 people directed to group dismissals. However the Regulation of Group Dismissals anticipates written justification of that decision, Halina Duda didn't get that kind of justification. Superiors orally informed her that the only reason why she is on the list is her affiliation to "Solidarity'80" and her participation in pickets organised by this trade union. National Labour Inspection found - in note from 31st October 2002 - all the dismissal conducted than in HCP illegal.

This kind of actions (like examples of Rafał Jackowiak i Halina Duda) are contradictory to RP Constitution and 3rd article of trade unions law, which says: "None can suffer because of his affiliation to trade union..." especially if it concerns a problem of engaging and dismissing from work. This is another time when the state and the authority don't observe the rules they impose, submitting for consideration the point of such rules existence. Unions' liberties are essential part of human rights and every kind of repression in this subject equals human rights violation.

KM KNSZZ "Solidarność'80" in HCP
OPZZ "Konfederacja Pracy"
Workers' Initiative - Anarchist Federation s.Poznań

Poznań, 20th February 2003

OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza
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