Sunday, 29 June 2008
A protest in being planned for July 4 in Warsaw at the HQ of Lionbridge Polska
The picket will take place after the court session of Jakub G., dismissed unionist from Lionbridge.
We support the workers right to form a union and will not tolerate union busting! Read more!
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Lionbridge Protest. They have made the following page: http://www.priamaakcia.sk/?action=view_article&id=435
Join an international week of protests against the labour practices of Lionbridge
On 4th July 2008, a trial starts between Jakub G. and the Polish branch of Lionbridge (LB). From 30th June till 6th July there will be a week of actions around the world against anti-union practices of LB. The case may be critical to syndicalist activities not only in Poland but also globally. Priama akcia (IWA/AIT Slovakia) would like to ask you to show your solidarity
with Jakub in Poland. There are several ways to do so in each country.
WHAT TO DO
No matter what you do, it is important to do it, if possible, before 4th July so that info about what you did will hit the Warsaw branch before the trial starts.
1) ORGANISE ACTION in front of LB branch in your city and/or PAY A VISIT to the
Any actions directly at LB branches are more than welcome. It doesn't have to be
dozens of people. A small group of friends can organize ultrafast and put a
pressure easily as well. Check out
http://www.lionbridge.com/lionbridge/en-US/company/locations.htm for seats of LB
2) SPREAD INFORMATION THROUGH INTERNET (chats, mailing lists, discussion forums...)
Many people spend some time online daily and have favourite chats, forums or
mailing lists. Some also might know about specialized forums for IT folks,
interpreters, unionists etc. Sending information to all kinds of online
discussion platforms may have several positive effects:
* It can bring info about the case to people and show that we can do
something to defend ourselves against employers
* It can be a good impulse to discuss the theme.
* The name of the company gets into circulation and that can be a signal
for example for IT workers' or interpreters' community to be careful when
looking for a job in such a company.
As a model message could be used perhaps this (or modification of course):
You might have heard about a trial that takes place in Warsaw on 4th July
2008 between Lionbridge corporation and a unionist Jakub G. Lionbridge is a
transnational corporation offering localization of software and other services.
It has branches on several continents, mostly in Europe, USA, India and China.
In the beginning of 2008 Jakub G. was fired from Polish branch in Warsaw
because he founded a union together with his colleagues. The company said that
he is author of an article telling about Dublin LB taking over a contract for
interpreting for Irish Courts that led to the decrease of the position of
professional interpreters and to lower wages. However, this information,
including revenues and wages of interpreters, is publicly accessible on the
internet – including on the Lionbridge website, newspapers and bulletins of
interpreters' unions. This was clearly a pretext to fire a trade-union organizer.
Before the trial starts there is going to be an international week of
actions for readmission of Jakub that anyone can easily join. For more info
click here http://www.priamaakcia.sk/?action=view_category&id=94.
It would be interesting to know whether you've seen similar problems at
your workplace, or whether you have experience with attempts to divide project
managers and the rest of interpreters in such companies. Or whether you have
similar experiences which have not been publicized (tell us how things were
Here you have info what the case is about: http://laborrightsblog.typepad.com
Here is a link to an action in support of the dismissed employee:
Perhaps the most interesting is the interview with Jakub here:
There are other interesting matters, and perhaps someone here even works or
worked for LB.
3) SEND E-MAIL, LETTER, FAX
Contact for Warsaw branch responsible for the firing:
183 Jutrzenki St.
Tel: +48 22 865 99 00
Fax: +48 22 865 99 30
Send a copy of the e-mail and/or the fax also to the union: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contacts for other national branches can be found here:
Fax can include for example this text:
I am aware of the dismissal of Jakub G., employee of Warsaw branch of
Lionbridge, because of his union activities. I appeal to Lionbridge to
immediately stop the practices that lead to the suppression of basic employee
rights and I demand his readmission.
I will inform my friends and the general public about this case by
You must be aware that Jakub is going to win in the court. Do not
jeopardize your current reputation and your clients! Accept that you made a
mistake and reinstate Jakub! Respect basic employee rights, such as the right to
form a trade-union! Your company will be judged on how it respects employee rights.
NAME + CITY + COUNTRY
4) CONTACT THE BRANCH
Usually there are procedures to inform a central branch of the company in such
cases, thus this form of protest has a similar impact as if you were directly
protesting in Warsaw!
Call and ask the manager to come to the phone in the matter of the company’s
employee in Poland. Tell that you know about the dismissal case in Warsaw and
you are indignant at what the company did and demand the immediate readmission
of Jakub. Note that in case it doesn't happen, you will inform other people
about what is happening. What you tell is of course up to you. What is important
is not to have a mini court trial fight but to let them know people know about
what they did and they will do actions to immediately stop such practices..
Telephone to Warsaw: +48 22 865 99 00
Other country contacts:
5) INFORM FRIENDS (in e-mails or icq, make some online banner and so)
You can send info about the case to your friends:
* to all the people in your e-mail address book
* to people from you icq list (msn, jabber whatever ;))
and ask them to find a moment to show their support. It is likely that they will
do it in some way. You know, friends are friends ;)
If you can, prepare some online banner and spread it. One banner is here:
6) DO WHATEVER YOU FEEL;)
Inform us about what you've done so we can share that with Jakub and see what
was the response and overall interest in the support actions. Thanks beforehand.
Priama akcia – Slovak section of International Workers' Association (IWA/AIT)
Wednesday, 25 June 2008
The local working classes of wealthier countries long ago developed a false consciousness that immigrants come and take away their jobs when at the same time million of jobs are exported by their capitalist compatriots.
Many things decrease local employment but ultimately the system is to blame. We must sell our labour to buy back our survival. It's the plain old greed of those who own land, companies and the means of production which causes a bigger problem. Most workers are denied any means for self-substance, successful self- or collective employment. Instead of looking at the root of the problem, people are conditioned to find the guilty. Foreigners are one of the scapegoats.
Populist and other right-wing politicians try to convince people that you have to keep people out of your local labour market or you'll lose your job. They cultivate racism to help the process of spreading this idea.
We oppose oppressive border controls which only causes more suffering for workers while bringing benefits to small groups of elites. his is why members of ZSP took part in the organization of a conference and a demo against the EU border agency Frontex, located in Warsaw.
Frontex's oppressive and racist practices lead to the deaths of migrants. Besides that, EU immigration policy forces millions of workers into precarity. Workers without papers are often victims of tremendous abuse and are a much bigger threat to labour standards than if they were allowed to work legally.
Capitalists know bo borders - we shouldn't either. Our resistance must be global.
Down with all countries! Read more!
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
In our newspapers, brochures and leaflets, we often give advice to workers and informtion on their legal rights. This information is also found on the internet, on pages we work on such as Pracownik or CIA. In Warsaw there is a labour law library available in the Infoshop as well.
Some workers at a bakery found out from us that, among other things, because a public holiday fell on Saturday, they were entitled to another day off in lieu of that. Normally, the people at the bakery work on Saturday and the boss forced them to make up the lost day, even though they were entitled to a day off. After some consultation on the issue of working hours, they found out where their rights were being infringed and even that they were being cheated by the boss. Upon confronting him, they were financially compensated and the boss, who claims he wasn’t aware of the regulations, promised to abide by the law.Read more!
Thursday, 19 June 2008
PKS Grodzisk Mazowiecki, like most other companies which pay shit wages, has trouble finding people to work and recruits people from impoverished areas of Poland and the Ukraine . In May, members of Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) heard about problems people were having in PKS GM from some of the Ukrainian drivers.
Drivers are expected to work very long hours, despite the fact that work time regulations clearly limit the hours a driver can work to 9 per day and require that they have two free days per week. However, it is not uncommon that the drivers were made to work 10, 12 and even up to 17 hours per day – without overtime pay. Many Ukrainian drivers worked 60-75 hours a week or even more. This is not only abusive, but extremely dangerous for both the workers and passengers; one bus driver fell asleep at the wheel in May and had a serious accident.
PKS GM also committed other infractions and abuses. Members of ZSP documented how drivers had money taken out of their wages (even up to almost 50% of their salaries) for going over "gas limits". The company set strict limits (which they often don't tell the drivers about) for how much gas should be used during a typical route. If a driver gets caught in one of Warsaw's notorious traffic jams and burns more fuel than the limit, this gets docked out of their salaries.
Other problems that workers had included that fact that PKS GM were holding workers' passports so that they couldn't leave and that the company was holding the drivers' licenses. Not to mention poor living conditions, etc.
On May 13, workers held a wildcat strike. Not all of them went on strike. Mostly it was the Ukrainian drivers, although a few Polish drivers supported the protest. We went to talk to the workers and see if there was anything we could do.
Basically, workers in this position have limited choices. They can take radical action, but then they should have a plan: storm the office of the company, make an action to get in the media, block the streets or the routes where scabs were driving, or some sort of radical direct action. Or they could go the legal route and
file suits against their employees. Unfortunately it turned out that many
of the Ukrainian workers were not convinced that anything they would do could help them.
It wasn't exactly true. Some pressure was put on PKS GM. A few articles got into even the mainstream news, we also gathered evidence of the firm's violations, sent them to the appropriate authorities, sent them out to the city, politicians, the transit board, etc. so that should the workers want to pursue legal action, the documentation would be there in Polish. Had the workers decided to organize themselves and take action, whether direct action or legal action, they would be in a good position to stop the abuse.
On May 15, Zenon Marek, the head of PKS GM came to the depot and gave out envelops filled with cash to the striking bus drivers. Of course this was done without any receipts or calculation as to how much was really owed to people. But it was enough to calm down some people, unfortunately. Additionally, drivers were given a 10-day vacation to go back to Ukraine. Ostensibly, this rest was to make up for being overworked, but in reality it was just another strike-breaking technique. Unfortunately there wasn't much we could do to convince people that they need to stay and fight at that moment so we agreed to meet in June.
The bus drivers we knew are no longer working for PKS GM. There was conflicting information as to whether they just quit or whether they were not allowed back. We were getting different information from people we spoke to. Disturbingly, it seems that rumours were being spread about the Ukrainian bus drivers. One Polish driver told us the problem with the gas was that the Ukrainians had been stealing it; it isn't clear whether the source of the rumour is the boss or whether some Polish drivers started it, but apparently new Polish drivers hear that explanation for the labour problems. Some workers seemed very scared to talk to us. Others told us different stories: that the payments were made correctly this month, or that they had illegal deductions made. We are still trying to work out this conflicting information but it seems now that the company is selectively abusing the workers and that the new guys, the ones just recruited, with no knowledge of Polish, with their passports confiscated, are the ones most likely to have their rights abused.
At the same time, workers in the other bus companies are also dissatisfied, but the workers and unions have not decided to try to get together and cooperate. In fact, the workers in the different bus companies more or less defacto compete against each other. This is especially true since contracts with the city awarded by public tender usually go to the lowest bidder, so in giving this work this way, ZTM is encouraging bad labour practices since these firms offer low prices by overworking people and paying bad wages.
The City Council had allocated money for bus drivers from MZA to get wage increases, but the management of MZA instead decided that this money would be turned into an efficiency bonus. Last year drivers had threatened to strike unless they received more money. This year, some unionists organized a protest on June 5th demanding better working conditions but it was not a grassroots action organized or attended by the workers - instead it was a union action mostly attended by union funtionaries, even from other cities.
Of course the workers of MZA need to be more pro-active and not leave this struggle up to union leaders. MZA has already started hiring bus drivers from Belarus as "an experiment". Rather than improving working conditions so that Polish drivers will consider working in Poland, instead of Ireland, it's more convenient to find some people who have lower expectations - and who better than workers trying to escape the misery of Lukashenko's regime.
A sad thing may also be that some Polish workers may feel resentment towards these workers or may be inclined against them. Apparently some drivers in PKS GM were eager to believe in stereotypes about "crooks from the East" and the bosses used this against the workers. By no fault of their own, these workers are used as pawns by the bosses against other workers who are fighting for better conditions.
Managers from MZA also openly spoke about why they started to hire women bus drivers: they were more likely to do their work, not make trouble, and to stay on the job than men. Of 3000 bus drivers from MZA, only a couple of dozen are women.
Although salaries in MZA differ, most drivers start out at less than 400 euros a month. In Warsaw, this is not a living wage. You can only survive frugally on such wages if you have very cheap housing and are not paying commerical rent, just common charges. If you agree to live like the Ukrainian bus drivers at PKS Grodzisk - 4 people to a 10 sq. meter room on bunk beds in barracks built from containers - then you can even manage to save something from this kind of salary.
All of the workers have got to get together in common struggle for decent wages but for now, they are divided, passive and not resolute, Direct action, with the support of passengers, who also have everything to gain from the overthrow of the elites and bosses who control the transport board, is clearly the way forward for the drivers. Read more!
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Actions against Frontex
Frontex is the EU agency which deals with hunting down migrants, intercepting boat people, organizing charter deportations, training and coordinating armed border defense teams and border guards, spying on migrants and other heinous acts. With the slogans "No Borders, No Nations, Stop Deportations" and "Shut Down Frontex", we went to its headquarters.
On June 5-6, activists from many different countries came to Warsaw to protest against the deadly policies of Frontex, the EU agency which conducts migrant hunting operations, trains border guards and special units to hunt down people crossing so-called "national borders" and which helps to coordinate and implement EU immigration policy. Frontex has its headquarters in Warsaw.
On June 5, the second of two transnational conferences took place. (A more complete account of the conference should appear later.) The conference was opened by Laure Akai with presentations by Amadou Mbow, a human rights activist from Mauretania, Devi Sachetti from Italy, who deals with issues of migrant rights, including the issue of precarity and migrant labour, Vincent de Jong from Holland, who is active in resistance against detention and deportation in Holland, Georgios Maniatis from Greece and Hagen Kopp from Germany. The speakers presented information about the Frontex operations near the coast of Africa and their consequences, the operations in Libya and the Mediterraen and Agean Seas as well as an overview of Frontex operations, the ideology behind this and our arguments against this regime. It was pointed out during the presentations and later discussions how destructive these policies are and how the migrants can be victimized twice - for example, by the practices of some businesses which undermine their traditional livelihoods at home and then by the policies of the countries these businesses tend to come from, which seek to exclude people.
On June 6, a demonstration was held in front of Frontex headquarters. People from many countries were present, people from various social movements, some refugees living in Poland as well. The protestors demand that Frontex be shut down and that freedom of movement should be given to all, that there be an end to descrimination of all sorts against immigrants. The sleazy head of Frontex, Ilkka Laitinen, came out to try to assure the press that he's a nice, decent guy who's just doing his job, which most people agree with. He invited some people in to speak with him but, just like any two-faced, teflon politician, he tried to deflect all criticism by using Eichmann's defense and pretended to not know anything about migrants suffering because of Frontex's work. He asked people to please inform people should they hear of any problems. As if the fact that people came thousands of miles to protest was no indication that something was going wrong.
The protestors made some speeches and had many slogans against borders in general, against deportation, against Frontex, etc. Afterwards, a demonstration was held. People went to the Presidential Palace to protest Poland's immigration policies, in particular it's agreement with the Vietnamese government to deport 5000 Vietnamese people. The Polish border police, along with Vietnamese security forces, carried out a number of raids recently in which Vietnamese people were beaten, detained and deported. This government agreement has driven many of Poland's Vietnamese (70,000 people in Warsaw) underground.
Afterwards activists met and agreed to continue working on this issue, to make the issue more known and to provide a deeper analysis of the processes, including appeals to working class people not to be fooled by the divisive ideology of the statists and capitalists which pits working people against each other.
The anti-Frontex activities were ended by a concert on June 7th.
Audio links (in English):
1. Bernd Kasparek
2. Tobias Pflüger
3. Amadou Mbow http://radio.indymedia.org/en/node/16893
More info on Frontex:
Related Link: http://www.frontex.info.pl
In May 2008, ZSP started a campaign against rising prices, (In Szczecin Workers Initiative is working together on the campaign.) In the last few years, the prices on basic goods and services have risen at a much faster rate than wages. The neoliberal press boast of rising wages, but only a small group of elite are earning significantly more money than before. Most people's salaries don't keep ip with the price of inflation.
One area where people are most greatly hit is in housing. The price of buying or renting a flat has increased tremendously, in some places well over 200% just in the last 3-4 years. The cost of medical care has risen, and not only the cost of prescription drugs; as the state underfunds and shuts down hospitals and the state healthcare system is in ruins, a majority of people now pay twice for health care - they use private health care of pay extra to hospitals for "special services" while still having obligatory state insurance payments taken out of their salaries. The state also pushes more and more of the costs related to education on students and their families.
While the busineses of the world sell their goods in Poland at prices equa; to or sometimes higher than in other countries, they keep wages much lower. The workers at the Cadbury factory which replace the jobs of hundreds of people in England earn only a quarter or a third of what their British counterparts were making, but the price of the chocolate is more or less the same.
The campaign against rising prices is also a campaign for rising wages.
On June 2, members of ZSP joined a picket protesting against increased transport fares in Warsaw. Prior to the price increase, flyers were given our to passengers both in relation to the working conditions of bus drivers and calling for a fare strike. Although nobody really headed the call to mobilize for a strike, there was some passenger resistance for a few days at the beginning of June.
Due to the greed of ZTM (the Municipal Transport Board), they decided they would decrease the commission kiosks would get for selling tickets, So many kiosks decided they wouldn't sell tickets as a protest. Whent he time came for people to buy tickets, there were none in many of the kiosks. The places that had them quickly sold
our and ZTM-run points were overrun by people looking for tickets. Faced with huge crowds, many people just decided to go without tickets. Some people jammed the ticket machines on buses. When controllers came, many people just yelled at them and chased them off.
During the picket, one speaker from ZSP pointed out that although ZTM claimed that they had to raise prices because of rising fuel costs, most buses in Warsaw are run by subcontractors - companies that won public tenders and who receive a fixed rate per kilometer. Thus ZTM pays the same despite costs. Also it was pointed out that some companies take rising costs out of the workers' salaries - for example PKS Grodzisk Mazowiecki which takes money out of wgaes when drivers use "too much" gas.
ZSP handed out leaflets calling for the socialization of public transport to be run by workers and the public in cooperation, on anarchist principles.
On June 6th, members of Wroclaw ZSP held a picket against price increases in that city. The activists have a poster / information campaign going and are criticizing, among other things, how public money is spent. They insist that as we are forced to pay taxes to the state, we should have a say on how public money is spent and that we need to insist that money go to cover basic and urgent social needs, such as health care and education. Other people from anarchist and autonomous groups took part in the picket.
On the day prior to the picket, the secret police paid a visit to the home of the person who registered the event, and also to his neighbours, trying to intimidate the activist. (He doesn't live at that address, so the police used hard talk to warn and scare his parents.) They left a message that our comrade should stop his political activity. It is not clear that this event is related directly to the picket, which by itself shouldn't cause such fear in the organs of oppression.
The web page of the campaign (in Polish only) is here: www.stop-podwyzkom.pl Read more!