Friday, 21 March 2008

Lionbridge unlawfully dismisses trade-union organizer

Lionbridge is the largest corporation in the globalizationLogo_lionbridge industry, which, among other things, translates and localizes software for giants such as Microsoft, Google and Adobe, provides Microsoft hotline services and even, controversially, provides interpreters to the Irish courts.

It has offices on several continents, notably in Europe, USA, India and China. The company’s headquarters are located in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. Lionbridge currently employs 4600 people in 26 countries and subcontracts work to over 25,000 independent translators. Lionbridge provides translation and localization of Web sites, mobile devices, software, and clinical trials.

In December 2007, workers in the Warsaw office of that firm created a trade union, called “Krajowa Federacja Pracownikow". On Feb. 12, 2008, Jakub G., a workplace union representative in Lionbridge Poland was dismissed on disciplinary grounds. The dismissal came shortly after the announcement to management that a union had been formed in the workplace and despite the fact that Jakub was protected by Polish Labor Law as an elected union representative.

Jakub was warned by members of the management that having a union would make the company "less competitive". The reason given for Jakub's dismissal was “damaging the company's image” and “disclosing confidential information” by writing an article which was published on the Internet. No proof of those allegations were given, and in fact, another person has admitted to writing the article.

The article in question, published in Polish and then in a slightly different English version, is in fact based entirely on information available on the internet. Lionbridge is on Lou Dobbs' "Exporting America" list of companies "sending American jobs overseas, or choosing to employ cheap overseas labor, instead of American workers", as Dobbs puts it, although now that the dollar's value has dropped so drastically the firm plans more and more job cuts in Europe. Lionbridge publicly announced its plans a few years ago to shift some 40% of jobs from the US and UK to India and China. Information of this kind is public domain.

Incidents of firing union members in disregard of the law are fairly common in Poland, including firing protected union officials. Most often summary dismissals are given shortly after the creation of a union. There have also been a number of cases where unionists have been dismissed for "acting to the detriment of the company" by describing some aspect of work conditions to the press. ITUC has recorded many dozens of instances of unionists being dismissed shortly after announcing the formation of a new union. "Acting to the detriment of the company" and "disclosing secrets" are typical charges. It seems that the "birthplace of Solidarity" is now famous in European labour circles for firing unionists.

Jakub has filed a case against Lionbridge in the Polish Labor Court. The first hearing will take place on July 4th in Warsaw. The Lionbridge case will be closely looked at not only by unionists, but also by human rights organizations and even legal observers. What will be interesting for legal observers is to see how the corporate lawyers will try to argue that public information, available on the internet, may be considered at the same time "confidential".

Jakub has been working for the company for almost 8 years and received several promotions before becoming active as a trade-union organizer.

More information about the case is available at:

If you wish to express your support for Jakub, please write a protest letter to Lionbridge CEO Rory Cowan, at Lionbridge headquarters:
1050 Winter Street
Suite 2300
Waltham, MA 02451
Tel: +1 781 434 6000
Fax: +1 781 434 6034

No comments:

Post a Comment