Wednesday 10 December 2008


You ever wonder what happens to the clothes you donate to “charity shops”? Unfortunately something that seems like a “charity” can be not nearly as charitable as you think.

Ragtex collects clothes in the UK and sends it to other countries to be „processed”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are just cleaned up and given to poor people. Often these clothes are resold – cheap but commercially. Sometimes recycled fabric is made from these clothes.

Lots of Poles work at Ragtex in Frydlant in the Czech Republic. The working conditions leave a lot to be desired. No protective gear is given and there are lots of health and safety violations. The company does not pay the obligatory insurance, even though it is taken out of the workers’ salary. This is probably why they are hiring Polish people: they figure that the Poles won’t use the insurance in the Czech Republic and probably won’t catch one. But they did and the case is in court. To make matters worse, one of the women working there contacted us when the manager even beat another woman. We spread news about the incident and wrote a letter to Ragtex. We are keeping our eyes on them.

If you live in Great Britain, why not let Ragtex know that workers’ rights and good working conditions are important to you. Their email is: Ragtex also has clothing collection boxes in many locations: you can drop a note in the box.

Read more!

Saturday 29 November 2008

Lionbridge Case Comes to an End – but the Struggle Continues

The Lionbridge case was moving extraordinarily slow throw the court. At the same time, many have left the company due to worsening conditions and a bad feeling: despite the company’s efforts to put out an effusive amount of PR, the stock value has plummeted to about one US dollar, the firm wants to close down European offices and is sending more and more work to places like China and India. Given a number of factors: new employment, the prospect of a long and expensive case with appeals and no guarantee that the office will even exist by time he is reinstated, plus the really crappy and sleazy actions of the boss, our comrade decided that fighting for reinstatement to the company, although something he wanted to do for the principle, was not going to be the quickest or most efficient way to improve labor conditions there. The case was settled, but our comrade is in touch with workers and professional organizations in several countries who are monitoring the situation and taking action. In particular, action is being taken to pressure the company to stop late payments made to freelance translators and others.

Some workers have also contacted us from far-afield; it seems that Lionbridge is contracted to do internet assessment for firms like Google and hires lots of students from all over the world to “make money at home on the internet”. These people are being encouraged to use the internet to put pressure on the company to pay people on time and to be more honest in their job offers.

Hopefully there will be good news to report shortly. Read more!

Friday 21 November 2008

There is an Alternative: Anarchists protest health privatization

Anarchists made on 20 November picket held in Krakow in front of the offices of Civil Platform party. This party is leading government and making the health system privatization. A few dozens of people made the protest and proposal to make transformation of hospitals into the worker cooperatives. The members from Workers Initiative and Anarchist Federation from Krakow were and Bielsko-Biala workers from hospital and members of ZSP from Silesia.

Pantera, republished from CIA Read more!

Wednesday 12 November 2008

The Anarchist Counterball

Members of ZSP Warsaw took part in the organizing of the People's Ball in Warsaw.

The anarchists' "people's ball" was held yesterday in Warsaw.

Nov.11, was Polish Independence Day. As the country becomes sick with more and more patriotism, the patriotic holidays are becoming more and more grandiose and grotesque. This holiday, the 90th anniversary of Polish independence, saw huge military parades, dozens of patriotic demonstrations and a presidential ball.

At a time when the government is preaching austerity to the people, when thousands of people are striking for better pay, when the government is attacking the health care and education systems, when early pensions and other benefits for working people are being done away with, and we are being told "we cannot afford this", the state wastes millions on shows of patriotism and attempts to show off its military might and present itself as a regional superpower. While millions suffer from lack of basic services, the president decided to throw a gala ball.

Presidents from the Visegrad countries, the Baltics, Balkans, Ukraine and Georgia came, as did high-ranking officials from other "aspiring" countries like Turkey. In short, the "B-list" countries are networking. Angela Merkel arrived for official ceremonies in the morning but did not stay for the ball, which featured all the typical luxuries, dashed with amazing Polish ultra-kitsch such as the strange gorale group Zakopower. (All we can say is the ball's 800 disgusting guests certainly deserved the torturous concert.) While the Presidents, the rich, powerful and elite were wining and dining, the anarchists decided to hold a counter ball - a people's ball.

Anarchists protested the arrogance of the politicians and their use of tax money, which was typical of the relation between those in power and those without. One of the many themes of the ball was the warning "Capitalism is sinking, enjoy your last dance" sent to the participants of the ball. Posters with the warning in many languages were put around the city.

Many would-be participants, who had taken part in an antifascist action were either blockaded by the police or waiting for people blockaded by the police. The ball was then attended mostly by people outside the movement, who danced to the DJs or samba band, watched fire shows, got a warm meal, anarchists leaflets and newspapers. Afterwards, people tried to move on to the official ball, but were stopped by the police. Some people went there anyway only to find that the anarchist ball, which was only a couple of hours long, had actually outlived the presidential ball. (Our guess is that people ran away after Zakopower.)

As a political protest, maybe the ball was a bit weak, but it was not a bad street party, made by the people, for the people and at a cost of a few thousand times less than the president's ball.

Some photos of the ball are here: Read more!

Sunday 2 November 2008

Nestle attempts to break trade-unions in Alima Gerber

In September this year, Jacek Kotula, the president of the workplace commission of the “Solidarity” trade-union in Alima Gerber S.A. in Rzeszow, Poland (currently owned by Nestle) has been dismissed on disciplinary grounds. This is one of many cases of contempt for workers’s rights by large corporations operating in Poland. It is not the first time that Nestle workers have to fight with Nestle in order to have their basic rights respected in various Nestle factories spread around the world. Russian workers are still in the process of struggling for the right to negotiate wages.

Below, we present an interview with Mr. Jacek, made by a member of the Union of Syndicalists of Poland (ZSP).

ZSP: The official reason given for your dismissal was a conversation you had with a Polish farmer, in which you informed him that Alima Gerber imports apples from Italy instead of buying it from the local farmers. In the opinion of the management, this conversation was detrimental to the interests of the company. Do you think it was the real reason why you got fired?

Of course, this was just a pretext to get rid of me. The real reason was my activity and the activity of the workplace trade-union commission of “Solidarity” presided by me for 3 years. Let me just mention that since July 2008 our commission grew by 50% and our activity has expanded to Nestle in Warsaw. I have demanded wage raises of about 140 Euro monthly. Currently, a regular employee earns about 350 Euro after tax.

The employer was not interested in negotiations. I have also proposed to sign an agreement about combating stress-related problems. The management falsely claimed that there are no legal grounds to introduce such a program. I have also presented the facts related to the discrimination of our employees in comparison with another Nestle plant in Poland, where workers earn 50% more than the ones in Rzeszow, while performing similar work.

Since there was no reaction, I have sent a letter about the case to the United Nations. I have indicated the many illegal actions of the management of the factory, confirmed many times by the Work Inspectorate. I have asked the president of Nestle Poland to meet me regarding an important issue I have mentioned in writing. Each time, I was faced with a wall of indifference. In the end, they just got rid of me in the most brutal fashion - by way of a dismissal on disciplinary grounds.

The conversation with the president of the union of farmers of Alima Gerber which I had and the alleged encouragement to negotiate high prices for fruit and vegetables was only a sad pretext to get rid of me after 16 years of work there.

ZSP: How did your colleagues and union members react to the management's decision? Did the local commission act in your defence?

The decision to dismiss me was a shock for everyone. My colleagues from the Solidarity union gathered signatures on a protest against my dismissal. Two thirds of the workforce signed the protest. The union commission, nor the work council, did accept my dismissal. Despite this, the employer knowingly broke the law by dismissing a union representative protected by the law. This is a clear violation of the worker's rights and the Labour Inspectorate in Rzeszow has initiated a proceeding against the management.

ZSP: How was the dismissal delivered to you?

After I was informed about the intention to fire me and after I saw the September 5th letter asking the union to accept my dismissal, I felt very sick on psychosomatic grounds and I have spent a week being treated on the cardiology department. In the meantime, the management of Alima Gerber harassed my family several times. The saddest event occurred on September 13th, at 7 AM. Four of my children, aged from 7 to 13, were alone in the house, while my wife was working on a night shift. My children were woken up by the relentless bell ring. When my 12-year old son opened the door, the manager tried to give him the dismissal document.

My son did not want to accept anything from the manager. The manager demanded that an older son be called. But the older son refused to take anything and locked the door. The manager stood at the door until 9 AM, kept ringing and knocking the windows and door. The children were terrified and informed their parents by phone of what has happened. The youngest son kept crying and asking: "why do they want to put daddy in jail?"

After the manager left, the house was under observation until noon by a man in a red car, at about 50 m away from the house. Our neighbours informed us of this fact. After I left the hospital, I went to Bulgaria on September 16th, for a training organized by the European Trade Union Institute from Brussels. The training was earlier approved by the manager of the plant.

I was the only representative from Poland. At the Okecie airport in Warsaw, after luggage check-in, I saw the manager and the Human Resources director going after me. I was shocked to see them there. I ran to passport control and haven't seen them afterwards. After I returned from the training, I was not let into the plant. It was claimed that I was fired... at the airport!

ZSP: How did the management portray this case to the employees? Were there any attempts to turn employees against you? If so, were those attempts successful?

The management informed the employees that I am a criminal, because I have acted to the detriment of the company, allegedly advising the farmers to negotiate the highest possible prices for fruit. The management claimed that this was the reason for falling profits and that is why the employees cannot expect any significant raises. The workplace commission was also threatened that its members will have to participate in court hearings. Was this successful? I believe in some sense, yes.

ZSP: When will the trial begin?

I have filed the case on September 25th in the Labour Court in Rzeszow. The first court hearing will take place on November 10th. I believe I will win, as I did 6 months earlier, when the employer illegally punished me for entering with a workplace security inspector on a night shift. I did nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, the inspector admitted that I acted in the interest of the plant by informing the president of the farmer's union that apples are being imported from Italy. No one can convince me that apples imported from Italy will be cheaper than the apples from near Rzeszow. Besides, the farmers are shareholders of the company. They are not competitors, but members of a family and the plant could not function without them.

ZSP: Dismissals of active union members are quite common in Poland. The political climate for union activity is quite bad. This year several union members have been dismissed in state owned and private companies. The employers seem to act with impunity. How to reverse this negative trend?

We must highlight cases when the employers break the law. We need to show people the of meanness of some companies which knowingly break the law by firing protected union members. We also need to change the law in order to give real protection to the union activists who are on the front line of the struggle for workers rights. All unions must act together in this area.

ZSP: Temporary work is a common phenomenon. What kind of difficulties did you encounter while trying to fight for equal treatment of temporary workers employed by temp agencies and workers with permanent contracts?

Our plant has been hiring temporary workers from the Impel agency for three years. These employees performed the exact same work as the permanent employees, for half the wages. They did not receive compensation for working in noisy conditions, their working clothes were not washed and they did not receive meals.

They were discriminated against, which is not allowed by the law on temporary work agencies. We have reported the issue to the management, but to no avail. Two years ago, we informed the Work Inspectorate about the case. The inspection revealed that our suspicions were right. The plant was forced to employ 70 of the temporary workers on permanent contracts, with the same wages as other Alima Gerber workers. A few of the workers filed suits against Impel for discrimination. Their lawyer estimated their losses to over 3300 Euro a year. The case is still pending.

ZSP: The international character of many corporations doing business in Poland allows for international actions of support in case workers rights are being broken. What are your experiences working with other organizations internationally?

I have excellent experiences, especially with unions from the so-called "old" European Union. There seems to be quite a different union culture there. For example in 2006 I have written a complaint to the Swiss management about the extremely poor wages in our company. I have argued that an employee of our company cannot sustain himself, let alone his family on the wages he receives. We have received support from the European Confederation of Trade Unions in Brussels, from the IUF (International Union of Food workers) from Geneva, the European Worker’s Council and many unions in France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. A journalist from Basler Zeitung has visited us to write a big feature about the case. Another newspaper, “Input” has written an article about the topic.
The western media and organizations are the only real weapon of Polish unionists.

ZSP: Since you have lost your source of income, are you in need of material help? How can union members and people interested in worker's rights help you in your situation?

I have not received wages since September 16th. I don’t receive any unemployment benefits, since I was fired on disciplinary grounds. Our family subsists on the income of my wife, who is a nurse. I have four children, who still are very much in shock after what happened to me. I have to return a credit from the Social Fund until October 15th. I am in the same situation as many ordinary workers in Alima Gerber, who can only afford some basic necessities despite years of hard work. I believe that the good will prevail. I ask people of good faith only for prayer.

ZSP: Thank you for the interview. We wish you success in your fight for reinstatement in the workplace!

Read more!

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Lionbridge Case

The Lionbridge case is still going on. In the most recent court case, the company admitted that it had not checked information given to it concerning their claims for dismissing unionist Jakub G. The company accused him of stealing and leaking confidential information. The company admitted im court that it did not check evidence which proved the information in question was not confidential and that they considered it "irrelevant". Nor did they read the e-mails they claim that Jakub sent from work which they claimed contained confidential information. Clearly if they didn't even check these things, the company was fulling aware that this reason for dismissal was complete bullshit and nothing but a pretext for firing the unionist.

If they didn't check the information supplied to them which proved Jakub's innocence, what did they check? In court the HR director testified how she "googled" Jakub's name and found information about his political activity. Apparently this information, which is totally irrelevant to the former employee's work and to the case, was more relevant to the company than the facts and even the law. Read more!

Saturday 20 September 2008

No to Repression for Ideology!

On August 29, a couple of people from ZSP Warsaw visited the local office of the Red Cross in connection with the case of Frederico Puy who was dismissed from his teaching position in the Red Cross due to ideological reasons. The day before, flyers and a protest letter were left at the office. The visit to the Red Cross office occurred during the largest labour protest of the year in Warsaw, with 50,000 members of Solidarity union on the street. As the protest went by near the Red Cross office, leaflets were also handed out to the demonstrators with information on the case.

Leaflets handed out spoke about, besides the case of Puy, the discrimination of teachers on political grounds which were taking place in Poland. The highest profile cases took place a couple of years ago when their were many dismissals, denials of raises and awards to teachers who had, in the PRL perios, been members of the official structures or who are currently active in the teachers' union connected with the former ruling left coalition, the ZNP. These actions were overtly political. The worst actions were taken by the former Minister of Education Roman Giertych from the fascistic League of Polish Families. He also dismissed many officials in the education system, for example for using handbooks prepared by the Council of Europe which have a chapter on "tolerance" towards, amongst other, homosexuals.

These cases are very well known in Poland.

Solidarity has strong political connection with the PiS party of President Kaczynski. The political orientation of the organization is determined by 50 people in the union - the National Commission. They supported the presidency and many of the politicals of Lech Kaczynski. In terms of the teachers, Solidarity often works against ZNP. Solidarity and ZNP are the biggest teachers' unions, but there is no unity of action between them. Finally, a Solidarity leader, commenting on efforts to ban homosexuals from teaching positions a couple of years ago, made statements to the effect that of course nobody wants to see gay teachers. Solidarity thus politically is a very conservative organization. However, among the rank and file workers, you may sometimes find individuals who have another idea. The idea to hand out leaflets to them about the Red Cross and Puy, linking it to cases of political and other discrimination in Poland, was thus also the idea to promote anti-disrcimination as an issue among workers. Unfortunately, most mainstream unions do almost nothing about this issue and some union activists even openly support discrimination of various forms.

Unfortunately, the higher-ups at the Red Cross were not available and the people we spoke to did not seem that interested in the issue. About 2 weeks later we sent more faxes to the Red Cross about this issue with strong statements against political discrimination. We also sent copies to the ZNP teachers union, for their information. Read more!

Monday 15 September 2008

Stop Anti-Union Hysteria

(Fake newspaper. The articles are satirical pieces about how the world of work may look in 2018. Delagalized unions plan to demonstrate for a return to the 10-hour day, 200,000 cops mobilized for the demonstration and politicians explaning how we cannot afford priveleges such as holidays and sick days. This was handed out in Warsaw.)

Unions are under attack from many sides. The liberal government doesn’t want to
deal with them, the employers’ lobby is trying to curb their powers and the media
is attacking them. The media attacks no doubtedly help to justify the others in people’s minds. There are more stories in some papers about corrupt union official than there are about corrupt politicians. The liberals all sing in a chorus about “how much the unions cost” and try to convince people that they have to be willing to work cheap. We also see the manipulative language of the media. They are always talking about things like “priveleges”. Days off become “priveleges”, health insurance, which is paid by each worker from his or her salary, is treated as a “burden” or “benefit” that an employer is unjustly forced to pay.

It looks as if the struggle for workers’ right should begin with the struggle against the liberal ideology and its main carrier, the mainstream media. Read more!

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Anti-Militarist, Anti-Patriotic Actions

August 15 is a patriotic holiday in Poland. It commemorates the battle of Warsaw of 1920, when Poles beat back the Bolsheviks. The holiday is most cheerfully celebrated by far-right anti-communists and other patriots. This year, the holiday was full of hyperbole. The President was the patron of a very patriot event in Warsaw which included a far-right band popular with skinheads and a military parade. The mood was extremely agressive as right-wing politicians in Poland were busy drumming up anti-Russian sentiment, rallying around the events in Georgia and Ossetia. They also were very proud of signing a deal to host an American missile base. They were showing off how they would professionalize and modernize the army, sinking more tax money into military costs and sending more and more soldiers to places like Afganistan.

Some members of ZSP and comrades from the anarchist movement were out at this event but this protest did not last too long. ZSP members also ventured out to some other actions, like the protest organized at the Russian embassy against Russian agression, with leaflets expressing an internationalist, anti-war position. (Based on the statement made by KRAS.) At one action, we found, instead of the demo, a large group of Polish soldiers and lots of barricades. Apparently this had scared the protestors away. We proceded them to agitate amongst the soldiers, most of whom were draftees, serving out their obligatory military service. We were eventually chased away by officers who did not appreciate the suggestion that soldiers turn their guns on them.

ZSP's next burst of anti-patriotism can be expected on Nov.11 when we will participate in organizing an "anti-ball". November 11 is the Polish Independence Day and this year, the 90th anniversay of Polish "independence", the President has invited the president's of 55 countries to a grand ball. It is also the day when fascists usually hold marches. ZSP will protest that day against the state and capital, against militarism and fascism. Besides the protest, some public meeting will probably take place. Read more!

Monday 21 July 2008

FagorMastercook Protest

Fagor's not a Workplace but a Workcamp: Mondragon Capitalists Fuck Workers in Poland. Strike is Imminent

Fagor is a large appliance manufacturer owned by the Mondragon "Cooperative" capitalist enterprise. In Poland it cooperatives FagorMastercook in Wroclaw. Currently there are serious labour problems in FagorMastercook. Members of the Wrocław group of Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) went Friday to a protest in front of the factory.

The place has become quite militarized. On Friday the firm had over 200 armed security guards from the notorious firm Impel there to protect the factory. The place was surrounded by metal barricades and each worker going in was throughly searched. Some employees say that there is often heavy security and searches.

Despite the heavy security, or perhaps because of it, about hundreds of workers joined in the demonstration on Friday. About 300 people, workers and supporters, were there after the morning shift, and about 200 before the afternoon shift began. The demo was organized by the August 80 union which has been negotiating with the firm for many months to get people a pay raise.

The workers in FagorMastercook have noted many instances of people being fired for belonging to unions or even just agreeing with their postulates. At least 20 members of August 80 were fired.

In FagorMastercook there are a few unions: Solidarity, August 80 and OPZZ Metalworkers. Solidarity and August 80 are calling for pay raises. In June a warning strike took place. Over 90 percent of the workers went on strike. Then a wave of repressions started. Besides firing some unionists and others who supported them, they started to pick out people, have supervisors stand behind them on the line watching their every move, threatening to fire them if they got even a second behind production. This sort of intimidation was probably used to show people that if they tried to organize themselves, the company would find any small pretext to fire them.

On July 9, two members of August 80 were fired for "leaving their workstations". They had been collecting votes on a strike referendum.

Members of ZSP at the demonstration were told that people were threatened with dismissal for demanding pay raises. They also heard that the workers will probably vote to go on strike.

Production workers at FagorMastercook make around 1200 zloties (400 euros) a month. Minimum wage in Poland is currently 1126 zloties a month but this will be raised to 1276 next year. So workers at this highly profitable factory are making almost nothing. That's why one of the slogans of the workers is FagorMastercook: A Workcamp, not a Workplace.

At the end of 2006, the EBRD decided to 17.5 million euro to FagorMastercook. This money was given as part of a restructuring project. FagorMastercook wants to increase production in Poland and achieve economies of scale while making Poland its production hub for Central Europe. The company moved production from Spain when it started new production of gas stoves in Poland about 5 years ago. The production of refrigerators also got moved to Poland. Over 80 percent of the production is meant for export. They increased turnover by about 29% last year.

FagorMastercook works in a Special Economic Zone and received subsidies from the Polish state; it received a direct subsidy of 3.5 million zloties for creating jobs, plus a CIT and corporate real estate tax exemption. So in addition to money from the EBRD, FagorMastercook got help from the Polish state of about 52 million zloties. That's equal to the EBRD's 17.5 million euros at the current exchange rate. This means that the EBRD and Polish state invested more in the FagorMastercook facilites in Wroclaw than Fagor.

Although Mondragon still pushes its "cooperative" worker-friendly image, publishing bullshit reports on how it is concerned about the effects on globalization on the local workforce, for example in Spain, Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC) is a typical capitalist employer operating plants in low-wage countries like Poland, Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Thailand and China. Employees in these countries are not co-op members. (Some employees in other countries, even in Spain are also non-members; as many as 1/3 of Mondragon workers are not cooperative members. Any cooperative can also apply to MCC to employ up to 40% non-cooperative workers.)

It pretends to be "one of the world's top 10 best employers" and pays completely shit wages here in Poland and is actively repressing unionists. This is even worse than having typical capitalism disguised as a cooperative; it's just typical exploitation of people from poorer countries by those in the richer ones.

ZSP is calling on people to send letters to Mondragon and to Fagor expressing their disgust with the appallingly low wages in Poland and with the recent incidents of repression and intimidation against protestors. We also ask people, if they meet anybody spreading naive reports about Mondragon, to point out what's going on.

Sample protest letter (please write your own version):


José María Aldecoa
Mondragon Corporation Cooperative
Pº Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta
Nº 5 20500 Mondragon
Guipuzcoa, Espana
Fax: +34 943- 796 632
Fax: 34 943-779-300

Fagor Electrodomésticos
Fax: 943 79 68 81

Fagor Mastercook
Fax: 48 22 639-8985

We are writing to support the demands of the workers at Fagor Mastercook in Wroclaw and to demand an immediate end to its repression of unionists.

Workers at Fagor Mastercook are demanding an pay raise of 1000 zloties since salaries there are barely above minimum wage and are well below the national average. Over 90% of the workforce participated in a warning strike in June. Afterwards, many union members and leaders were fired. Workers have complained that they have been harrassed and intimidated. Peaceful demonstrators were met by 200 armed security guards.

This type of exploitation is a disgrace. Enough of your hypocrisy !

We are looking forward to the workers' imminent strike and ultimate victory.


If you sent a protest, let us know. If you sent a different text, send copies to:
Read more!

Thursday 10 July 2008

Lionbridge Solidarity Actions

The first week of July saw the beginning of international solidarity actions with Jakub G., a union activist unfairly dismissed from the Warsaw office of Lionbridge Poland.

On June 30, activists from Priama Akcia in Slovakia visited the local office in Zilina. Leaflets were given out and a toy lion was left for the management. In a rather grotesque turn of events, the manager of the Polish and Slovakian offices, Jacek Stryczynski, claimed that the lion was something like a death threat and made a very ridiculous and paranoid representation of the event in one of a string of e-mails sent to frighten and promote division amongst employees.

On July 1, a picket was held in Brussels. Leaflets were given out and people spoke to the workers at the office. In Paris the next morning, members of CNT-AIT got a more harsh reception from security but still managed to hand out leaflets to the employees. In Lisbon, the offices of Lionbridge got some information posters about the case.

On July 4, pickets took place in Dublin, Copenhagen and in Madrid. In each case, leaflets were given out to employees and passersby.

July 4 marked the beginning of Jakub’s case in the Labour Court. The management of Lionbridge presented no evidence to support their false claim that he was fired for stealing confidential information which was supposedly leaked in an article. When asked which information was confidential, the lawyers claimed that the revenue of the firm was confidential information. Of course this is total bullshit: Lionbridge is a publically listed company and information about it’s revenue is published in its annual report and is filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Since Lionbridge’s arguments are bogus and they have no evidence to support their fabricated claims, they tried to submit an interview with Jakub made after his dismissal as evidence of his hostility towards the company but this could not constitute grounds for dismissal and naturally was not allowed. The company thus tried to stall and postpone, citing the lack of some original English-language version of an article.

Some time after the court session, there was a picket in front of the Warsaw office of the company. Due to a torrential storm, the crowd was smaller than anticipated, but still about 40 people stood there is the pouring rain. The company turned the office into a bit of a fortress; 4 vans of riot police were waiting there and police and corporate security were filming from many points in the building. Following a string of scary e-mails implying that the job security of all the workers was threatened and warning that “the protest was taking place during working hours”, few people dared venture out of the building until after the picket had ended.

In the meanwhile, Lionbridge employees and freelancers from around the world have sent their best wishes.


Background of the case

In December 2007, workers in the Polish office of Lionbridge - a multinational translation company - created a trade union based on non-hierarchical principles – KFP. 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” by writing an article which was published on the Internet. No proof of that allegation was given, and in fact another person has admitted to writing the article. The article in question was in fact based entirely on information publicly available on the internet.

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.

Jakub has filed a court case against Lionbridge at the Polish Labour Court. The next court hearing will take place on August 13th. Read more!

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Report on the picket of Lionbridge in Dublin

Anarchists, trade unionists and social justice activists placed a placed a lunchtime picket on the offices of Lionbride in Dun Laoghaire on Friday the 4th of July as part of an International Week of Solidarity with Jakub G, a longstanding Polish Lionbridge employe who was fired for encouraging fellow workers to join a union to protect their pay and conditions in Lionbridge's Warsaw office.

Despite the fact that workers had been warned not to speak to the 'dangerous anarchists' by Lionbridge management the picket in Dun Laoghaire was a good natured affair with about 20 activists distributing more than 100 leaflets to workers leaving or returning to work on their lunchbreak. Before we finished up Damian Moran of the Pitstop Ploughshares spoke about some of the labour and other struggles recently engaged in in Poland.

Meanwhile the case taken by Jakub against Lionbridge in the Polish Labour Court also started on Friday. Lionbridge claim to have dismissed Jakub for publishing an article online which leaked “confidential company information”. No proof of that allegation was given, and in fact another person has admitted to writing the article. The article in question was in fact based entirely on information publicly available on the internet. Lionbridge claim they can prove Jakub wrote the piece yet yesterday asked that the case be postponed until August so that they could prepare their evidence. (see here for a full account of what went on in court: )

We're confident that Jakub will win his case and he will continue to have our support to ensure that he does so.

The text of WSM leaflet distributed at Lionbridge in Dublin after sacking of worker in Poland can be found at . If you want to distribute copies of this leaflet the PDF file of it is at

From WSM webpage. Read more!

Sunday 6 July 2008

Unionists Protest Lionbridge the Cowardly Lion

About court case and protest

Lionbridge stalls the court and tries to defend its actions as the case gets more political.

On July 4, proceedings started in the Warsaw Labour Court in the case of Jakub G against Lionbridge Technologies. Jakub was fired in February 2008, shortly after becoming a representative of a newly-formed union in the Warsaw branch of that company.

No Arguments in Court

Lionbridge was represented by not one, but two high-priced lawyers from the Warsaw office of a well-known international law firm. The courtroom was full with observers from no less than three trade unions, some left political groups, four mainstream newspapers, the independent media and Jakub's friends and supporters. Lionbridge claims that Jakub published an article on the internet using confidential information, that he used the company e-mail to transfer confidental data and that he acted to the detriment of the company.

Jakub prepared all the evidence to prove that the allegations were false and it was already submitted to the court. This included many source documents that had to be translated and notarized. Instead of dealing with these documents, which had been used by the company as the basis for their dismissal (the court documents referred to the article written on the Polish internet site "CIA"), the lawyers tried to submit an interview with Jakub made by the Slovakian group Priama Akcia as evidence of Jakub's "disloyalty to the company". The court, naturally, would not admit this evidence as the interview was made after Jakub was already out of the company and could not constitute grounds for dismissal.

The lawyers also claimed that the alleged confidential information was leaked not in the Polish version of the text, but in the English one and that Jakub was especially trying to withhold copies of the English versions of the text. This was quite amazing since both the dismissal letter and the court documents referred to the Polish version of the text and the only reason that everything was submitted in Polish certified translation was because that is the official language of the court and documents, as a rule, should be submitted that way. The head of Lionbridge told the court that he had to go on vacation and asked for the next hearing to be postponed one month.

False Claim with No Chance

The lawyers also made quite an interesting claim that the alleged "confidential information" which was leaked was information concerning the company's revenue. They claimed that this type of information is "stricly confidential, was never published anywhere and was known only to Lionbridge employees". This was the only "proof" of leaking confidential information offered in the court.

It is hard to judge whether the lawyers could be so astoundingly incompetent that they failed to check this or whether this was just a shameless attempt to introduce false arguments in the case solely to buy time. Information concerning the revenue of large public listed companies is generally public, especially in the United States where financial reports of companies with more than a certain level of assests and shareholders must be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on a 10-K form. (Lionbridge is an American-based global company.) Revenue information is available not only to shareholders, but is published on the web pages of the Commission ( On Lionbridge's 10-K forms, published openly on the internet, anybody can find out the revenue of any of Lionbridge's local offices. Anybody can also just type in the words "Lionbridge revenue" to see that it was common practice for Lionbridge to release information about their revenue to the press. The revenue of the Polish office was also printed in the Polish press.

It is quite hard to believe that a professional lawyer would not check this information, even more so as I submitted a letter to the firm, which Lionbridge submitted to the case as evidence, giving all the sources of information for the article in question, "Lionbridge, Globalizing Low Wages". Among the sources I submitted were the sources of information on the company revenue. There is no chance that the false allegations of leaking confidential information for the article can stick.

This leaves the company with only one strategy: to try to convince the court that, for political reasons, they should be spared from having to reinstate their former employee.

The Lion's Red Herring

The court date was preceded by an international solidarity campaign on behalf of the unfairly dismissed unionist. Protest letters were sent and solidarity pickets took place in Slovakia, Portugal, France and Belgium. The attention drawn by these pickets unnerved the Polish management of the company. In an attempt to weaken sympathy with Jakub, two letters were sent by management to workers of the Warsaw office, one of which was later leaked. The letters accuse the unionist of threatening the financial stability of the company because of the protests and warn workers that their job security could be on the line should the firm suffer because of the negative publicity.

Such logic is typically used in global corporations and this is not the first time such comments could be heard in the Polish office. Upon the creation of the union, Jakub was told essentially that unions undermine the competitiveness of the company. It was sometimes heard in the firm that the employees were all competing with Indian and Chinese workers and that acting out of line in anyway could mean that their jobs would be quickly lost to those countries.

In a letter to the employees and later (in an interview with a journalist from Poland's leading newspaper), Jacek Stryczynski, head of Lionbridge Poland, gave an emotional account of the inappropriateness of the protests, especially fixating on a stuffed toy lion used in Slovakia. (See picture here: He told the journalist that he was "being persecuted by the Communist International". (For some people, anybody who criticizes a corporation must be a communist.) The letters sent to the employees could well be considered red-baiting. They constantly speak of anarchists and anti-globalists and insinuate that these actions have nothing to do with the welfare of the workers but with Jakub trying to make a career in the anti-globalist movement. (The fact that Jakub isn't an anti-globalist is another matter.) One letter implies that people with such political ideas cannot work in global companies which appears to be evidence of discrimination on political grounds - another violation of the Polish Labour Code.

Protests on the 4th of July

Protests in front of Lionbridge's Polish headquarters were seriously hampered by a downpour of torrential rain but a good crowd of hardcore activists came anyway and protested in the storm. (Thanks to people from ZSP, WRS, IP, FA, LA, SMS, etc.)
The management must have been thoroughly panicked after the visit of Priama Akcia to the Zilina office with a stuffed lion toy so long before we arrived, four vans of riot police appeared to protect the office from potential toy-carrying unionists.

There were some speeches and slogans. Besides that, ZSP (Union of Syndicalists) submitted a request for a translation job to the company. ZSP asked Lionbridge to translate an article about violations of workers' rights into all languages to be published on their website. (We don't think the firm will take the job.)

On the same day, solidarity actions were also held in Ireland, Copenhagen and in Madrid. (Huge thanks to everybody who took part in these actions or will take part in the ones planned for the future.) Leaflets were handed out with basic information about the case and about worker organizing.

Employee Reaction

In Ireland, employees were warned against talking to demonstrators or taking their leaflets. In Poland the employees had been warned beforehand that the demo was going to take place during working hours and of course leaving during working hours could carry serious consequences. A few might have been genuinely frightened by the totally unnecessary police presence and the amount of people from security filming the demo, so only a few brave ones came out and talked to the rain-soaked protestors. Unfortunately, a couple of employees later sent nasty emails to Jakub about the inappropriate form of protest in Slovakia (concretely, the mistreatment of the stuffed toy), but for every mail like that, Jakub, myself and others have received dozens of letters of support from Lionbridge employees and contractors around the world, especially freelance translators who also complained that they are often paid very late.

As one can expect, there are others in Lionbridge who may not be so gung-ho on the corporation's practices and who were genuinely offended by the e-mail sent to employees suggesting that people with certain political views shouldn't be employed by the company. This does not seem to be limited to people with leftist or liberal leanings: one person who wrote to me a couple of times in fact seems to be a quite patriotic American who is just genuinely concerned about good jobs being outsourced around the globe. (This earned Lionbridge a place on CNN's Lou Dobb's "Exporting America" list of US firms sending jobs abroad.) That person wrote that he wishes us well on the fourth of July and saw the case as an attack on freedom of speech and political thought, which are values he hopes every American would fight to uphold.
Read more!

Friday 4 July 2008

Solidarity Action in Copenhagen

On July 4 there was a solidarity picket in Copenhagen in defense of the union in Lionbridge Poland and against repression. Participants handed out leaflets to Lionbridge and other workers in the building.

Thank you for the solidarity! Read more!

Thursday 3 July 2008

Starbucks Action in Wroclaw

Members of ZSP from Wroclaw held a picket at the country headquarters of AmRest corporation. AmRest runs restaurants like Pizza Hut, KFC and Burger King in Poland and it will be opening Starbucks cafes here in the fall. The picket July 1 was a part of an international action against union busting at Starbucks. Our comrades demanded the
reinstatement of Cole from the Grand Rapids IWW and Monica from CNT in Sevilla, Spain who were fired for trying to organize unions in Starbucks.

Members of ZSP promised to investigate the workers' rights situation in the
restaurants owned by AmRest and will also encourage the workers of Starbucks to
organize. Some workers from one chainhave already contacted ZSP. Read more!

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Solidarity Action in Paris

Activists from CNT-AIT in Paris visited the Lionbridge Office. They got past the guards, into the office where they distributed leaflets. They also had some words with the director of Lionbridge.

Thank you for the Solidarity! Read more!

Lionbridge Solidarity in Portugal

Members of Associação Internacional dos/as Trabalhadores/as, the Portuguese section of the IWA, made a solidarity action at the Lionbridge Lisbon office. They hung solidarity posters at the office of Lionbridge and sent protest letters to the firm.

Thanks for the Solidarity! Read more!

Kickoff of internationl week of actions against anti-union practices of Lionbridge

On Monday 30th June Priama akcia IWA Slovakia organised the second protest action in the seat of Slovak branch of Lionbridge or as Irish folks called it - "Lying Bridge" First news show that the action week initiated in cooperation with Polish anarchosyndicalists slowly brings its first results. What is needed now is to push even harder before 4.7.2008 when the trial starts!

Events in Zilina, Slovakia

This was our second action in Zilina branch of Lionbridge (first was in March together with International Secretary of IWA/AIT - We went to 3rd and 9th floor where LB operates. On the 3rd floor we met with a few employees, had a
talk and spread leaflets.

Then we went to 9th floor where management seats to express our protest against the practices of the company and to show our support of Jakub and to give them small present (hanged lion with the Lionbridge name to stress that the company is digging its own grave - see In the hall a person who introduced himself as Víte(zslav ?i?lák approached us. We asked if we can meet with the manager, to which we received the reply that there is nobody there who could have time to meet us. We knew that the Polish manager was not there.

However, several things showed us that the Slovak manager was there and that he just cowardly sent this stooge. We didn't want to leave that easily, especially after this arrogant dealing with the guy saying ?and now please leave". However, we left after a while (that, we think, was a mistake). We handed out our present for the management. The guy said: "I hope there is no bomb in it" so we at least had a good laugh. We also noticed a felt pen sign next to the entry doors on the
9th floor saying "Readmission for Jakub!" that made the management so angry that Priama akcia received an e-mail from the owner of the building (not LB) that we are not welcome there anymore because of this.

At the parking place we spread some leaflets to windscreen wipers and left the place with thoughts what was done wrong and right. We would like to thank non-PA members for support of the action.

Events in Warsaw

In our article Join an international week of protests against the labour
practices of Lionbridge corporation
( we wrote about ways to
help in the case of dismissed unionist Jakub G and other details.
Today, 2nd July, just 3rd day of the action week, we can clearly see the first
results of international pressure. Moreover, the Polish management received info
about the 4th July solidarity demo in front of the Warsaw company office. Their
response? Panic in the Warsaw branch. In other words, a crisis meeting was
called in a hurry to find what to do. One of results is that they want to block
the case from getting to mass media. Also last week's visit by the Labour
Inspection that was interested in Jakub's case was stressful for the management.
It seems the Lion doesn't like publicity. Which we will give it with pleasure;)
For those who want to know more about the background and concrete lawsuit
matters, we refer to articles from the website of Union of Polish Syndicalists
Czy publiczne informacje moga; byc' tajemnica; firmy?
( and O sprawie

Events worldwide

Besides our action on 30th June and international call for solidarity that
caused many e-mails and other forms of protest by individuals and organizations,
there will be other actions. For example in Madrid, Dublin, Copenhagen and
Warsaw on the 4th of July. Check news at the website of the Union of Polish
Syndicalists ( There are also connections being
made with translator's associations which are interested in the case. For
example, the Irish ITIA published info about Jakub's case
International pressure with actions directly in Poland shows itself to be a
strong weapon that will lead to successful outcome. The fact is that Lionbridge
management knows well they have no chance to win the court case.

The campaign goes on! And you can still easily join

Lionbridge thought that Jakub wouldn't defend himself. They were wrong. Now it
is important to put such a pressure, that they immediately give in and accept
Jakub's readmission. They have to feel that lawsuit will only hurt their
reputation and that they cannot act towards unions like that. That's why we
again appeal to show your solidarity. We believe you can find a few spare
minutes and we want to say thanks beforehand for that. Just click on article
Join an international week of protests... and you will learn how to do it.

Priama akcia Read more!

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Action in Brussels

On July 1 our Belgian comrades visited Lionbridge offices in Brussels to protest against union busting practices in Poland. They gave out leaflets and spoke to the workers there.

Thank you for the Solidarity! Read more!

Sunday 29 June 2008

Protest Planned at Lionbridge

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!

New Bulletin

Issue number 3 of the bulletin "Strike" is now available as a PDF file.

We do not publish these bulletins on the internet. To receive a copy, please write to us to receive a copy.

Write to: Read more!

Saturday 28 June 2008

Direct Action (Priama Akcia) Solidarity for Lionbridge Protest

Direct Action (Priama Akcia) from Slovakia is very active in supporting the
Lionbridge Protest. They have made the following page:

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.


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 for seats of LB
branches worldwide.

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

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:
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.


Contact for Warsaw branch responsible for the firing:
Lionbridge Poland
183 Jutrzenki St.
02-231 Warsaw
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:

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
different means.

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.


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:


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)
Read more!

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Workers Have no Countries!

Nationalism is one of the ideologies which divide people on a false basis. National borders solidify the sovreignity of the ruling classes over the working people - nothing more. The state and capialists use the borders against us. They can move their money and goods across borders but get their border guards to precent normal people from having the same freedom as the capitalists.

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

Workers Read Zaplata and Get Overtime Pay

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

Protest and Wildcat Strike: Bus Drivers Angry but have no Effective Strategy for Struggle

The public transport system in Warsaw is controlled by ZTM, (the Municipal Transport Board) but various companies are contracted to operate Warsaw's buses. The largest company, MZA, is operated by the City of Warsaw but also several private operators run bus lines. These companies usually have won contracts through public tenders. One of these companies is PKS Grodzisk Mazowiecki (further PKS GM) which is a privatized "worker-run company". (Such companies in Poland usually are worker shareholder schemes, quite far from any idea of collective self-management by the workers.)

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

Shut Down EU Migrant Hunters!

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

More info on Frontex:
Related Link:
Read more!

Stop Price Hikes!

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: Read more!

Friday 2 May 2008

Warsaw May Day

On May 1 an anarchist demonstration took place in Warsaw. A couple of hundred people came from all the different anarchist groups. The demo went to the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, to the State Labour Inspectorate, a temp agency and a pro-business lobby's headquarters.

Many topics were raised, including the amendment of the Labour Code, discrimination in the workplace, the topic of casual work, firing of unionists and capitalist brainwashing.

A happening about discrimination in the workplace was organized by anarchafeminists from A-Fe. Other groups that took part in the demo included the Anarchist Federation, Left Alternative, Workers' Initiative, Union of Syndicalists, Freedom, Equality and Solidarity and Green Collective.

A pathetic counterdemonstration was organized by fascists. The night before, a talk organized by Freedom, Equality and Solidarity was attacked by fascists who through some incendiary devices into the meeting place. Nobody was hurt.

Some pictures from May Day can be found here:
Read more!

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Warsaw Ghetto uprising commemoration

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It was a great resistance of fewer than 1000 poorly armed people against the Nazi killing machine. They held out for almost one month, despite tremendous odds. Many non-insurgents were killed as a result: in total at least 7000 killed by Nazis, another 6000 being burnt alive or killed by smoke. The end of the uprising saw the liquidation of the ghetto, with most of its residents - about 50,000 people - being sent to death camps.

On this day we remember the dead, those killed by hatred and anti-semitism and we say "Never Again". Members of the Warsaw group of the Union of Syndicalists lit candles and left cards with commemorations and anti-fascist slogans throughout the area of the former ghetto, at the monument and at the Umschlagplatz. We will never forget.

As the plague of fascism and antisemitism lingers around the world, we vow to resist it, in the streets, in our hearts, in our minds, in resistance.

No Pasaran! Read more!

Thursday 3 April 2008

Action against American Military Bases in Poland

Members of ZSP from Warsaw who are involved in an antimilitary campaign had been preparing the first large protest against proposed installation of American missile defense bases in Poland. Comrades from ZSP from Szczecin and Olsztyn also took part, as well as people from many different groups and concerned individuals.

(Photo, members of ZSP giving the bullhorn over to the head lobbyist for the base, on the US payroll. He was promptly beaten by old women and booed away.)

Protest Against Proposed US Missile Base in Poland: Good public support, politicians and police against the people
On Saturday March 29, about 800-1000 people demonstrated against the installation of a US missile base in northern Poland. The base, which the governments of the US and Poland would like to build in Redzikowo, just outside of Slupsk near the Baltic Sea, would house elements of the American Missile Defense program, namely so-called interceptor missiles (which can also be used for offensive purposes. Despite the fact that 60% of local residents and over half of all Poles are strongly against the base, and only a small fraction of the rest support it, the government is intent to go ahead and build the base. A radar base is also to be built in the Czech Republic, again despite the opposition of most citizens.
The Demo
The demonstration started with a Hyde Park / open meeting in front of the town hall. A few hundred local residents came to hear the arguments against the missiles, to demonstrate and to speak out. Many people spoke only the meeting had to be cut slightly short due to an inpending downpour of rain. The only person who spoke in favour of the base was a paid lobbyist, Andrzej Jodkowski who was hired by the American Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance to make pro-missile propaganda in Poland. He was lously jeered by the crowd and some old ladies tried to beat him with sticks. People of all ages came out but it was quite noticeable from both this demonstration and a meeting the day before that survivors of WWII are especially angry about the base and concerned about militarism and a few elderly people in their 70s and 80s spoke out.

During the Hyde Park, free food was served by Food Not Bombs and some theatre was made by the Autonomist Collective and Anarchist Federation group from Torun. A lively demo followed through the city. Slupsk is a city of under 100,000 people which very few activists and the only other such demonstration held there since the fall of communism was a May Day march organized by the Anarchist Federation in 2002. It was quite a sight for local people, many who watched or joined in. Two nice samba bands played, a car went with music, people chanted "No Missile Shield" and lots of other slogans that don't rhyme in English translation.
At the Base
After the main demo ended, a group of a bit over 100 people broke off and marched to Redzikowo, the site of the future American base, a former Polish airforce base during the PRL times, currently disused but still guarded by the military. The police and military started to show their strength, sending out a military helicopter and lots of police vans. (Police had to be sent in from Gdansk for this action. Although Slupsk is home of a police academy and has an extremely large police presence, they were not available as many of them had been sent to Kosovo.)

A small action was made at the side entrance and some people removed the ridiculous barricade made there and went on the territory, at which time the police started to act. However nothing happened since the police claimed to demonstrators that there was "nothing there" and "no base there" and therefore could not give a legitimate reason to the anarchists why they were not allowed on that area. They threatened to arrest people for not following police orders but not for trepassing.

The demonstration moved to the main gate of the base where there was some symbolic attempt to jump the fence. Some local residents came out to talk despite the fact that the large police presence and the cops with dogs could look a little scary. Again local residents, despite the fact that many of them were relatives of former military, complained about the base to the protestors. Mr. Jodkowski the lobbyist, who followed us during the whole march, could only walk around sheepishly trying to give the demonstrators cookies.
Unpleasant Actions and Police Violence
The whole action went without incident, accept perhaps not including problems with vanguardist frauds from the Young Socialists who openly disregard requests not to come with self-advertising, party flags. (They are known throughout Poland as being sleazy party-sponsored parasites who fraudently present themselves as organizers of other people's demonstrations.) However as soon as people left Redzikowo and dispersed, the cops took the opportunity to vent their frustration on some scapegoats.

For whatever reason, a small group of people stayed in Redzikowo. Police used dogs against them and one woman was bitten. They started to give people bullshit fines. One guy was fined for having a black flag on his car. Later, one guy was arrested and fined for cursing. The fine was almost 300 dollars US, really an incredible exaggeration for something like that which in no way should be a punishable offense.

The real problem happened lately on, in the early hours of the morning just before 5 AM. There was a concert/ after party. A group of people were followed from the party by the police. They returned to one guy's place, where a group of people were already sleeping. Shortly later the police raided and attacked them, including people who were sleeping. The pretext was "disturbing the peace" although clearly sleeping people were not disturbing the peace. People were gased and beaten. 23 people were arrested. One guy had his arm badly hurt – in fact hey was sure it was broken. (It turns out not to be broken but just badly hurt.) The police also thought his arm was broken and he was taken to the hospital. He escaped and called people to tell them what happened.

The police at first denied that anything happened or that anybody was arrested but later changed their story (more than once). Few people were left in town, but those who were went down to the police station to demand the release of the arrested. The police are claiming that this brutal attack has nothing to do with the demo but present the arrested as being drunk and disorderly. They are charged with typical bullshit charges of "not respecting the police" and two are being charged with "violating the intouchability of the police", which is more or less assaulting an officer. This charge is used against demonstrators quite often, usually in situations where the police is beating somebody and they try to ward off blows or get the police off them.

As of the time of this report, all but two of the arrested have been released, 8 of them being charged with "not respecting the police". (The two still in custody will probably have the more serious charges against them.) They are going to file a complaint against the police.

Anarchist Solidarity and Anarchist Black Cross will try to help them: for more information or to send a donation for legal help, contact
The Struggle will Continue
The event was covered widely by local, national and some international press, although the American media refused to cover the event. Perhaps the action was not big and "spectacular" enough, but surely that's not the only reason. No worry though; if they go ahead with the base, which looks to be a strong possibility, this will just be the beginning. The next demo will be much bigger and louder.

The demonstration was organized by the Campaign against Militarism (started by anarchists but open to others) together with big participation others like the Anarchist Federation, the Autonomous Collective, some local, non-affiliated activists, some members of Greenpeace and the Union of Syndicalists. Practically all of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups in Poland were in attendance as well as some anti-war activists and a small handful of leftists from different groups and parties. A good part of the crowd was also made up of Slupsk residents. Probably this was the largest and most successful action we have made in a couple of years and undoubtedly the most important action against this military base that has happened so far in Poland. Despite the fact that most people are against the base, few people publically demonstrate their discontent. Unfortunately. The Campaign has decided to continue its work and, should the work on the base be started, to organize more radical protests and actions.

The campaign can be reached at

The website for the action includes lots of info in English about the missile bases:

Also see:

There are many press reports in Polish as well as photo reports. Here are a few links to photo and video: (Commercial photo agency shit),80708,5068992.html (Main newspaper in Poland, video from TV) (Voice of Pomerania, videos, article. First video (multimedia) has English with speaker from Catholic Worker. Second, talking head in Polish, third has part of march.) Read more!