On January 31 we took part in two protests against the liquidation of schools in the Praga district. The protests come after announcements that the city plans to liquidate 18 schools, including a pre-school, forcing the children to change their place of study. In one case they want to liquidate the only school in the neighbourhood, which recently was renovated and in another, the young students would be forced to go about 4 kilometers away to get to class. Classes would be consolidated, meaning more overcrowding, fewer jobs and more stress for teachers. Pupils, parents, teachers and people in the neighbourhood are opposed to the school closures. ZSP called on neighbours to support protests and the parents, teachers and pupils to take their problems to the streets and to the politicians. (Text of call, English version,)
(Continuation and photos below)
On January 29 was the grand opening of the National Stadium in Warsaw, built for the Euro 2012. The hideous structure turned out to be the most expensive stadium in the world, thanks to the many money-making opportunities to be had with its construction. ZSP, whose offices are located nearby, has been involved in protesting it at several stages: when workers, many illegally employed did not receive wages and went on wildcat strike, we helped them expose the situation, encouraged and helped some to take action, when Ukrainian workers housed in containers without heat contacted us, we helped to correct their situation and when two workers died at the stadium, we pushed for investigation and the testimony of workers on safety violations. We also have been involved in another way since the building of the stadium sped up gentrification in the area, which we are fighting. So when the Stadium finally opened, we decided to go there and protest.
On January 28, opponents to ACTA held a dub party in front of the Presidential Palace. 100% pirate and absolutely no copyrights allowed.
The protests have slowed down a bit in the city, no doubt due to the -20 degree weather with heavy winds. But people still came out to show their resistance. ZSP has tried to open the debate up to one on the nature of property in general and went out with slogans such as "The right to property vs. freedom" and "property is theft". This has generated quite a lot of internet debate, especially with right-wingers and libertarians that are against ACTA, but still are passionately defending private property.
ZSP is campaigning against raising the retirement age to 67. We have been making some informational campaign, handing out hundreds of leaflets everyday and collecting signatures for an initiative to hold a referendum.
At each step we also point out that many people, especially those under 30, are going to have lower pensions not because the retirement age is too low, but because the government allows employers to pay much lower contributions for people on various types of trash contracts. This is also one of the reasons that employers prefer to use them and the incidence of precarity has increased dramatically. ZSP is also campaigning against trash contracts, illegal outsourcing, false self-employment and the casualization of labor in general. One of our main aims is to get these problems more into public debate. After a recent conflict with a liberal bar in Warsaw which was picked up and discussed in the mainstream media, this topic came more under debate. We continue informing people, especially young people, about their rights and the consequences of this use of trash contracts.
More about this can be found on our central page: http://www.zsp.net.pl/zsp-campaign-against-raising-retirement-age
On March 31, 2012, the ZSP-IWA will organize a demonstration in Warsaw against social cuts in areas such as day care, refunds for prescription drugs, social benefits to families, public health care, higher education, public housing and transport.
Towards the end of the year, the government announced plans to introduce even more drastic austerity measures, on the recommendation of international institutions such as the IMF. Working people have already been massively hit by all sorts of cuts and the commercialization and privatization of many social services. This has all cut financing from the public sector, adding additional costs for the use of basic services such as health care and education, making them unaccessible for large portions of society.
For the last few das, angry anti-ACTA protests have taken place around Poland. Each day, thousands of people come out to protest, despite -10 and -20 degree temperatures. In Warsaw we have been active in the protests, moving them throughout the street and lending some radical slogans. Tonight thousands marched with us through Warsaw in another spontaneous demo. People shouted mostly anti-government slogans, throwing firecrackers and lighting some flares. At this demo, when some politicians showed up, they were chased away by the crowd. The police did not intervene.
These are some of the most widespread protests we have seen in years in Poland. We suppose that a lot of people are just angry and this was an issue that somehow sparked people to mobilize. Below are some photos and videos about the protests.
On January 24 people protested in Warsaw against ACTA, which would impose more regulations on the internet. The PM declared that Poland would sign the act on January 26. Similar protests took place in many cities throughout Poland, organized by internet users. Over the weekend, various government websites were also hacked.
In Warsaw we decided that the stationary rally should move, so a spontaneous demonstration took place. People were very angry and called for more sabotage of government sites and action. More protests are expected before the signing of the act.
On January 20 we organized a picket and informational action at the headquarters of Roche in Warsaw. The protest was related to the firing of our colleague and also to the firms "employment" practices in general. Roche does not want to hire workers on normal, indefinite working contracts and uses many fictitiously self-employed people in its offices here in Poland. These people are not protected by the labour code in any way, they have to make their own social security payments, do not get paid vacation or sick leave, maternity or paternity leave, are not covered by statutory regulations concerning dismissal.
The Tenants´ Defense Committee is continually shocked and appalled by the heartless and cruel practices of landlords and the state, which flagrantly fails to care for those in need. The Committee, ZSP and other friends - squatters, "indignants" and some left activists - all moved to block the actions of a bailiff against a terminally ill woman, fighting to keep a roof over her head in the middle of winter.
The facts are sad: the woman has cancer and is terminally ill. She has 3 children, the youngest 7 and 10 years old and cannot work. She is living on alimony and some small payments from social services. But the fact is that the social payments are never enough to cover most people's basic expenses and the woman fell into debt. This woman was not a tenant, but was in a housing cooperative and, when she fell behind on her payments, the cooperative sold the flat out from under her.
On January 16, the ZSP held another picket in solidarity with the strikers from Eulen-ABB in Cordoba who began an indefinite strike on November 28, 2011. The workers have been replaced by new ones from Adecco, who play the role of strike breaker in this conflict and which in general plays the role of providing staff for business which they can dispose of any time.
All of the striking workers have been fired by Eulen, the company they were outsourced from. The workers are demanding that they be given permanent contracts in ABB or at least are given the jobs that have been outsourced to Adecco.
Having learnt of the dismissal of all the striking workers from the ABB factory in Cordoba, ZSP decided to make a solidarity action the next day. This time we went to the headquarters of Adecco temp agency in Poland, to denounce their role in undermining the workers' struggle. Adecco replaced the old Eulen staff at the ABB factory.
We informed Adecco about why we came and handed out leaflets informing about the conflict in Spain and also criticizing the role of temporary work agencies in the decline of working conditions.
On December 19, Roche Poland (the pharmaceuticals company) got rid of an activist of the ZSP Warsaw by dismissing him without any reason.The dismissal came on the first day after a large article with the comrade appeared in the main newspaper. Although no real reason was given, it is largely felt that this decision was related to his work in the union.
Our friend is fighting for his reinstatement, but not only. He is also fighting for the recognition of his status as employee and all benefits owed to him. Because in Poland, work without a normal contract is a normal policy of Roche. In fact, the worker, who was trying to establish his legal working relationship with the company, was told that he would be the last person ever employed on an indefinite contract.