Saturday, 25 April 2009

Action in Bielsko-Biala

On April 24, members of some sections of Workers'Initiative and Union of Syndicalists,
along with members of the Silesian Anarchist Federation, went to the office of the Head of
the Local Adminstration in a solidarity action with the workers of the Psychiatric
Hospital in Bielsko-Biala which voted in favour of a strike two weeks ago during a
workplace referendum.

The hospital, is slated for restructuring and, most probably
commercialization, which means that there is more work, everybody is supposed to be more
efficient, but probably many jobs will be cut. The workers are demanding that the number
of beds in the hospital not be reduced, that the staff not be reduced and that they
receive a pay raise of 400 zloty (less than 100 euros) per month.

About 15 activists showed up at the Local Administration Office. This is the office in
charge of the administration of, among other things, hospitals. After being told that the
Head of the Administration was not there, people went into his office and said they would
wait there and made themselves at home. Shortly later the Head of the Administration
showed up for a discussion which went nowhere. Besides claiming that none of the activists
there "knew anything about anything", the Head of the Administration did not want to make
any statements about the future of the hospital, trying to pass the responsibility on to
various other parties: the National Health Fund, the Director of the Hospital and the
government. The activists pointed out that they were most concerned that staff reductions
would not take place but the Head of the Administration only said something like he'd
recommend that "if it were possible".

Two weeks ago the workers voted in favour of a strike in a referendum but haven't stopped
working. They have been in a "state of protest" however. Unfortunately, none of the
workers except the union leader came to the action which undermined our legitimacy with
the Local Administration. The union leader said that he didn't want them to come, but
wanted to do a solidarity action instead. Unfortunately this is often the state of union
activity in Poland, with strikes and protests made by union leaders and outside agitators
due to workers' fear of reprisal or indecisiveness.

It is unclear whether or not this action will have the desired effect, which was to
pressure the Head of the Local Administration to act in favour of maintaining staff levels
at the hospitals and improve working conditions. The Head of the Local Administration was
very arrogant and was clearly annoyed at times, especially at the end of the "discussion"
when he stormed out. Very little should be expected from such local politicians. We also
do not know what the reaction of the workers to the meeting with the Head of the Local
Administration will be; there should be some more feedback on it this week.

Some photos from the action are here:
An article (in Polish) is here:
For people who speak Polish, the TV report is here:

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