Wednesday, 14 October 2009

PKP Protest. ZSP Supports Radicals.

On Oct. 13 there was a protest of PKP workers and unions in front of their headquarters in Warsaw. More exactly, the protest was directed at PKP-PLK, one of the PKP Group companies. (See: this article.) PKP-PLK plans to liquidate some regional centers and fire people. Although they officially plan on firing only 500 people, actual job loss will be much greater because they will offer some employees a transfer to another city, knowing that they won't take it. This is often because of the unavailability of cheap housing in other cities. If these people refuse the jobs, it will not be treated as a dismissal or even liquidation of the position. In this situation, those who actually get fired are in a better situation, because at least they will get severance pay.

In the PKP group there is now a small group of radical workers who are critical of the way the unions are acting. Although by objective standards the PKP unions are far from being the worst sell-outs, there were complaints by both rank-and-file workers and unionists over how the situation in PKP Cargo was handled. One of the radical workers explained that although there are many union protests in relation to PKP and even a couple of warning strikes, the unions are reluctant to call for any other action, including a general railway strike. According to him, they are afraid that the company would use a strike as a way to gather public support against the workers. But the radical workers also have the feeling that when it comes down to it, some of the union leaders prefer to keep their cushy jobs and agree with the bosses rather than really fight for the workers.

We asked about the possibility of forming something new at PKP but the workers were not optimistic about their ability to gather enough people in the immediate future. They seem convinced that they have no chance to survive with a small union in PKP because if their union was more radical, they would be targetted for dismissal by the company. Unfortunately, this might well be true.

We had a small discussion about the possibility of encouraging radical action and actually getting more people behind them, regardless of whether or not they formed a recognized union. Unfortunately the discussion was far too brief. We hope we have the opportunity to continue shortly.

We also mentioned that they are not alone in this situation. Around Poland there are small groups of workers in many places who would like to take stronger action in defense of their rights and their workplaces. We mentioned the "underground" at Fiat as one example. There at least the underground has made considerable noise by making their anonymous demands public. They contacted us, sent us their text, which we published, and they also started a blog. This has got attention even in the mainstream news, so at least they are exposing the problems, which gives them a better base for self-organizing.  There are certainly lots of ways for these people at PKP to start organizing. Hopefully they will decide to do it soon - before it is too late.

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