Wednesday 29 April 2009

May Day

And here is the rest of it.The Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) will celebrate May Day this year with the residents of Warsaw's Praga district who have been protesting against rent increases and the reprivatization of public housing for the last few months.

Hyde Park with Tenants / Residents

Prior to the May Day demonstration there will be a series of small Hyde Parks - in backyards, parks and other public places. ZSP calls on residents to resist the rent increases with protests, direct action and a rent strike. Instead of housing run by irresponsible and corrupt bureaucrats, we call on people to organize themselves and repair their decaying homes with their rent money instead.

In the middle of a major European capital city, there are buildings without central heating and hot water and even without water and toilets in each flat. This public housing has been devasted by years of neglect. The city is now raising rents 200-300% and many people cannot afford it. We call on people to organize neighbour associations to deal with these problems at the grassroots level and to fight against the eviction of tenants who cannot pay or who are being forced out of reprivatized housing.

The main Hyde Park will take place at 13:00.

May Day - Enough Anti-Social Policies! Everything under the control of workers and the community!

At 14:00 we will gather outside the last remaining public health care in the neighbourhood, Praski Hospital. It's future is uncertain as the government vows to commercialize everything. Expansion of the hospital was started but the government cut funds, leaving the hospital with debts. Now they want to merge it with another hospital on the other side of Warsaw. People are presented with only two visions of health care (and social services in general): either a corrupt and badly organized public system, or a privatized and commercialized one. We know that neither system is good since they both revolve around the people in control making money - whether this be a commercial firm or government / municipal institutions. We call for the health care system to come under worker and civic control, to be freely accessible for everyone and not to be based on the profit motive.

We solidarize with striking health care workers across the country. As instituions are "commericalizing", more and more workers are forced onto contracts, work is outsourced and public hospital space is rented to private facilities. Fewer and fewer medicines and medical treatments are refundable by the National Health Service and fewer public services are available. Patients bear the brunt of these anti-social policies, but so do workers, especially nurses who are grossly underpaid and whose work is clearly less valued by hospital administrations. In addition, recently some nurses were repressed for taking part in a strike in Lodz. We support the demands of health care workers for improvement of their working conditions. We are also particularly concerned about the Working Time Directive and the amount of hours health care workers are forced to work. Besides these long hours, many are forced to moonlight in order to make ends meet. Forcing medical staff to work 60, 70 or even more hours a week has a direct negative impact on health care services and safety and is a travesty of workers' rights.

123 years after the events around May Day in Chicago, we see that the struggle for the 8-hour working day is still extremely urgent.

After visiting the hospital, we will also stop at the Post Office. There we will talk about the restructuring and liberalization of the market and what that means for the workers. Another workplace which was restructured years ago was PKP, the Polish Railways, which is divided into some dozens of companies at present. There are serious labour disputes not only with railway workers, but with people who repair trains who have lost their contracts with PKP Cargo. We will hear about how corruption in the Railway companies screws the workers.

PKP Cargo, like many other firms, have used the crisis as an excuse to start mass layoffs and to negotiate worse work contracts under the threat of cutting jobs. We will speak about the effects of the crisis and analyse how it is related to capitalist practices and abuse.

We will pass by supermarkets Carrefour and Biedronka. Biedronka is particular will receive our attention. It is very cheap and many poor people shop there, but it is also infanous for violating workers' rights. We will talk about the economies of supermarkets and the high price of low prices.

Finally we will pass by the bazaar where many people are illegally working and say a few things about the exploitation of migrant workers.

The day will end with some relaxation in the beautiful Skaryszewski Park. Read more!

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Tenants' Protest

On Monday there was another tenants' protest in Warsaw. Members of ZSP Warsaw took part as members of the Tenant Defense Committee. The tenants' demanded that the rent increases planned to come into effect May 1 be cancelled. There were many good speeches made, which of course fell on deaf ears at City Hall - but that's not the point. People are getting in a fighting mood.

For the first time in as long as anybody can remember, the City Hall bureaucrats were sent home from work a couple of hours early so they did not have to face the danger of our words. They can run, but they can't hide. We've decided to take over the next session of the City Council.

Today is another demo, but this time organized by the politicians. Luckily, the tenants' association with ties to the left prefer to cooperate with us and will also come to the City Council action.

Our next demo will be on May 1 when we will call for a rent strike.

Photos from the demo: Read more!

Sunday 26 April 2009

Bury Radioactive Waste Under the Sejm

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.A little off the traditional workplace issues... some of us took part in an anti-nuclear march in Warsaw on April 26, on the 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Some photos from the event are here: Read more!

Saturday 25 April 2009

Action in Bielsko-Biala

On April 24, members of some sections of Workers'Initiative and Union of Syndicalists,
along with members of the Silesian Anarchist Federation, went to the office of the Head of
the Local Adminstration in a solidarity action with the workers of the Psychiatric
Hospital in Bielsko-Biala which voted in favour of a strike two weeks ago during a
workplace referendum.

The hospital, is slated for restructuring and, most probably
commercialization, which means that there is more work, everybody is supposed to be more
efficient, but probably many jobs will be cut. The workers are demanding that the number
of beds in the hospital not be reduced, that the staff not be reduced and that they
receive a pay raise of 400 zloty (less than 100 euros) per month.

About 15 activists showed up at the Local Administration Office. This is the office in
charge of the administration of, among other things, hospitals. After being told that the
Head of the Administration was not there, people went into his office and said they would
wait there and made themselves at home. Shortly later the Head of the Administration
showed up for a discussion which went nowhere. Besides claiming that none of the activists
there "knew anything about anything", the Head of the Administration did not want to make
any statements about the future of the hospital, trying to pass the responsibility on to
various other parties: the National Health Fund, the Director of the Hospital and the
government. The activists pointed out that they were most concerned that staff reductions
would not take place but the Head of the Administration only said something like he'd
recommend that "if it were possible".

Two weeks ago the workers voted in favour of a strike in a referendum but haven't stopped
working. They have been in a "state of protest" however. Unfortunately, none of the
workers except the union leader came to the action which undermined our legitimacy with
the Local Administration. The union leader said that he didn't want them to come, but
wanted to do a solidarity action instead. Unfortunately this is often the state of union
activity in Poland, with strikes and protests made by union leaders and outside agitators
due to workers' fear of reprisal or indecisiveness.

It is unclear whether or not this action will have the desired effect, which was to
pressure the Head of the Local Administration to act in favour of maintaining staff levels
at the hospitals and improve working conditions. The Head of the Local Administration was
very arrogant and was clearly annoyed at times, especially at the end of the "discussion"
when he stormed out. Very little should be expected from such local politicians. We also
do not know what the reaction of the workers to the meeting with the Head of the Local
Administration will be; there should be some more feedback on it this week.

Some photos from the action are here:
An article (in Polish) is here:
For people who speak Polish, the TV report is here: Read more!

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Tenants' Protest Against Rent Increases

On April 20, tenants from all over Warsaw protested in front of City Hall against dramatic rent increases. The increases, which come into effect as of May 1, will raise rents in municipal housing, often as high as 200-300%. The increases will effect over 100,000 families in Warsaw which live in public housing.

Tenant protests have been going on frequently over the last two months in this city. Some tenants are protesting against the reprivatization of public housing. In many cases, heirs of pre-war owners of property or other claimants have be awarded ownership of buildings with tenants, many who have live their all their lives. Many of these new owners begin to engage in typical slumlord behaviour, raising rents to extreme levels, cutting off heat and water to the tenants and trying to evict them. In the Prague district alone there are over 200 claims to such buildings and 40 buildings have been privatized. In a response to protests in Praga, the city proudly announced it is "doing something" by building new public housing - 39 new flats in Praga North. In the meanwhile, over 700 families are already waiting for housing and, as reprivatization is increasing, this number is growing rapidly.
A couple of street meetings in front of houses in Praga and two demos at City Hall have been organized by the Tenant's Defense Committee. The Warsaw Tenant's Association joined in organizing yesterday's protest, which was also supported by members of the Office of Social Justice, Union of Syndicalists and Left Alternative. Another protest will be held next Monday and on May Day, when the rent increase is set to take place. The Union of Syndicalists are calling for a Rent Strike but realizes that the level of organization of tenants is not high enough yet. Many tenants obviously will not be paying these news rents because they simply cannot afford them, but unless people make more efforts to organize themselves, people will be fighting isolated, individual battles against the city which will eventually move to evict many of them. The Tenant's Defense Committee is hoping that people will begin to take a more organized approach to the problem.

In the meanwhile, tenants, especially from the Praga district, are outraged by the rent hike. People in Praga point out that most public housing is in tragic condition. Most buildings do not have central heating and many even to do have hot water, bathrooms or toilets in the flats. In addition, there are many health and safety violations in the building and the dangerous incidents, including fires are on the increase.

The tenants complain that, despite the fact that they pay rent to their slumlords in the city, nothing is done to improve the condition of the buildings or even to maintain them. A recent order from the offices in charge of housing in Praga shows the attitude the city slumlords take towards the tenants. After two fires broke out in Warsaw and a tragic fire killed many people in another Polish city, the government ordered that the city control the situation in public housing and make sure there were no fire hazards in the buildings. In many old buildings in Praga, the attics and basements - even the buildings - are filled with old garbage of unknown origin. Notes were posted on buildings ordering tenants to clean the buildings - which not only is difficult without special equipment, but requires the renting of garbage containers. The city threatened that if they do not do so, they will hire a company to do it - and charge the tenants.

A resident of one building told us about the city's companies. Once the tenants in his building offered to make some repairs but petitioned the city to deduct the costs from their rent. They were quickly told that they couldn't do this and were offered the services of "the firm the city deals with" - whose prices turned out to be 300% above those of other firms on the market.

Members of the Warsaw Infoshop collective, who also are tenants of the city, also point out that City Hall has adopted outrageous rules for tenants of non-residential space which require them to pay the property tax on all space, despite the fact that they are the not the owners. The city has also decreed that the decision on this matter cannot be appealed to court, meaning that the local courts, acting in collusion with the municipal government, will not hear such cases.

Members of the Union of Syndicalists believe that since the city slumlords have no regard whatsoever for the state of public housing, they should be abolished immediately and all housing matters should be placed in the hands of the tenants. They point out that had the money wasted on the bureaucratic apparatus been invested in the maintainance and repair of the buildings, the houses would be in much better state. ZSP calls on people to spend the rent money on collective repair of the houses and to organize against the slumlords and against possible repression and eviction.
Read more!

Sunday 19 April 2009

May Day in Warsaw

May Day in Warsaw. In the Praga district. To be preceded by Hyde Parks agitating for a rent strike. (Rents are raised from the first of May.)

For workers' self management and people's control over all public services!
Enough bad working conditions, poverty and fraudulent social policies!

Start at 14:00 at the Praga Hospital. March to Skaryszewski Park for festival. Stops along the way with speeches about working conditions and government policies against the poor and working class. Read more!

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Upcoming Protests and Event

Some upcoming protests that we will take part in (not necessarily related to workers' struggles):
April 15 - Demonstration of residents of Praga. In particular against reprivatization of houses, evictions, rent increased.
April 16 - Demonstration of refugees.
April 17 - Demonstration in support of the squat Elba which is threatened with eviction.
April 20 - Demonstration against rent increases.
April 24 - Demonstration in Bielsko-Biała in support of hospital workers.
April 26 - Demonstration against building nuclear power plants in Poland.
April 27 - Demonstration against rent increases.
May 1 - Picket, Hyde Park against rent increases. May Day march and festival. May Day will stop at several places - Praski Hospital, Post Office and Carrefour supermarket to speak about workers' struggles there. Possible stop at immigrant market place.

In addition, we'll have a discussion about the Bologna Process sometime at the end of April in the university. Read more!

Monday 13 April 2009

Remembering the Death in Vobro and Attack by Vobro Goon

This week is the one year anniversary of the death of 20-year old Krysztof in the Vobro factory in Brodnica. There was a big cover-up of his death and a lot of sleazy facts came out. The brother of the person responsible for health and safety in the factory works in the State Labour Inspectorate and was the person who inspected the factory for health and safety violations after the death of Pruszewicz. The police did not conduct a proper investigation, not even making a list of people working on the evening of the accident and it turned out the owner of the factory had all the right connections. And worker representation - which is required by the law on works councils which states that the workers have at least a council in any workplace with over 50 people? It turns out that the wife of the factory owner got this job.

After lots of independent investigation, including from the mainstream media who picked up on this case, the matter went out of the hands of the local inspectors and was sent to Szczecin. Since then, they have uncovered numerous other violations, including forced overtime work and not giving people days off. This included forced overtime work for handicapped people.

On April 12, some members of ZSP were in Brodnica and wanted to remind people of the case. Besides this, there were some posters - one of them was simply with photos of Pruszewicz, date of birth and death, his name and "in memory", others about work conditions in Vobro and a copy of the certificate awarded to the boss, who won the "Worst Employer of 2008" contest.

The first problems were at the factory, and although nobody had ever seen police arrive anywhere so fast, everybody was able to walk away. A hour later, two members of ZSP, myself and one comrade, were at the bus station ready to leave town. I was some distance ahead when I saw the comrade being accosted by some goon from Vobro. When I went there, the goon started to push me with great force - I am surprised I didn't end up like Tomlinson. An altercation followed, despite attempts to get the goon to leave us alone and to de-escalate the situation. The Vobro goon, who was a bit crazy and (literally) foaming at the mouth, was afraid of the male comrade and decided to do most of the pushing, arm twisting, etc. on me. This was at the bus station, about 100 meters away from the police who were alerted and coming. Security arrived with the posters of Pruszewicz they had torn down from the city - apparently they could not stand the image of the dead worker hanging even anywhere in the town.

Bearing in mind how relations with police and the town's rich and influential generally look, we were careful not to fight with these people, who already were talking insane bullshit about us attacking him, that I grabbed the goon and ripped his Vobro jacket - although this wasn't true and his jacket wasn't ripped. We wound up in the police station and the goon was stalking outside. Of course the police weren't interested in whether or not we were attacked by the goon and we were fined for "illegal dissemination of leaflets".

The Vobro goons finally stopped stalking us, probably realizing what the outcome of their actions could be. They didn't manage to remove all the poster and other people will return there this week to remind people of this accident.
Read more!

Thursday 9 April 2009

May Day

This year there will be May Day in Warsaw. We are going to invite protesting tenants as well for a Hyde Park / speakout and later to a festival. We will also see in the next few weeks if people are interested in the idea of a rent strike.

We invited some other local anarchists to the event and we'll see if they'll join. Read more!

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Labour Law Hotline

ZSP has set up a hotline for local residents to get advice on labour law, how to start a union, make protests, organize or file a claim. Members of the public may also use the labour law library at the Infoshop which has many books and articles with helpful advice. Read more!

Protest Against Rent Hikes

On April 6, residents of the Praga neighbourhood organized a picket in front of the City Hall against rent hikes which will be effective May 1.

ZSP joined the Tenants Defense Committee and will take part in organizing the next demos on April 20 and 27th.

In the meanwhile, the city is trying to quiet down the protests by claiming they will assign "more money" for public housing. Although the city budget for public housing is higher than before, there will not be enough apartments built even for half of the families on the waiting list, not to mention the hundreds of families who will lose their homes due to reprivatization. Also, the city has not responded to demands to freeze rent hikes. Read more!