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.

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