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.

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