Below, we present some of the recent struggles of the IP (Inicjatywa Pracownicza – Workers’ Initiative) union from Poland and ask for your support in 2022.
- Amazon fires a protected Inicjatywa Pracownicza shop steward. Make Amazon pay for it!
On November 9, 2021 Amazon Poland handed a dismissal notice to Magda Malinowska, who has worked for 6 years at its warehouse in Sady near Poznan. Magda was a union representative and a health and safety inspector elected by the union members. The dismissal was all the more scandalous because it was carried out against the objections, put in writing, by the trade union, which did not agree with it. As a health and safety inspector, Magda was involved in the investigation following the death of one of her colleague, who died at his workplace in September 2021.
We believe that the disciplinary sanction against Magda Malinowska is an escalation of Amazon’s anti-union practices of recent months. As a response, on Friday November, 26 – Black Friday which is a day of crazy shopping rush and huge profits for businesses – we blocked a street in the centre of Warsaw, near one of the biggest shopping centres. Our banners read and our throats screamed: BRING BACK MAGDA TO WORK! and MAKE AMAZON PAY! Make them pay for the deaths of our colleagues in the workplace! Make them pay for union busting and illegal dismissal! Make them pay for the exploitation of workers and the destruction of our health! Make them pay for the destruction of the planet and for tax evasion on an exorbitant scale!
- Collective bargaining at Cooper Standard
Cooper Standard Automotive is a global corporation. The 60-year-old company manufactures automotive equipment components. It is headquartered in Northville, Michigan, but has spread its wings internationally in search of cheaper labour. It now employs 32,000 people in 20 countries around the world.
In July 2020, a workplace section of the IP was established at the Myślenice factory. The unionists began collecting signatures in defence of their dismissed colleagues. They managed to collect 200 signatures. As a result, instead of 10 people, the company only parted with two. Next, the committee began negotiations on pay rises which are still in the process. The picket line in front of the Cooper Standard’s factory in Myślenice was organised to put pressure on the employer.
- Collective bargaining at Jeremias
Jeremias in Gniezno is, as it describes itself, “a leading manufacturer of chimney systems in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors”. It is a division of a group of companies based in Germany. At the same time, Jeremias is one of the largest employers on the Gniezno labour market. It employs a total of around 600 people, 400 of them in production and warehouses. Half of them are women. About 190 employees are of Ukrainian origin and are employed through temporary work agencies.
IP workplace section was established at Jeremias in February 2021. Previous attempts to establish a union organisation at the plant had failed. This time, however, a large number of people joined the union immediately and the committee began to operate vigorously. Within 10 months, IP managed to build a strong union organisation and go through a collective bargaining process that ended with a significant pay rise.
More info (in Polish only):
- Union-busting and repressions at Pedagogical University in Krakow
IP workplace section at the Pedagogical University in Krakow was established in June 2021 as a response to mass layoffs and “restructuring” announced by the university authorities. As for December 2021, five representatives of the IP have been fired for criticizing University’s employment policy, for organizing protests against layoffs and union busting and for talking to the media about it. It is a handbook example of union busting and an attack on workers’ self-organizing. The union is not giving up, the protests at the university will be continued and the fired union members will also fight for being brought back in the courts. They receive support from other IP university sections and from other sections in Krakow.
- Protests in culture and higher education
Due to high inflation rate and austerity politics in the public sector in Poland our workplace sections in Culture and Higher Education organised picket lines demanding wage indexation and stable working conditions.
On December 6, 2021, a protest of cultural workers took place in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Warsaw. The picket was attended by members of the IP sections at the POLIN – Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the Filmoteka Narodowa – Audiovisual Institute and the Zachęta – National Art Gallery. Cultural workers demanded decent wages and working conditions, because they do not agree that the Polish government cares only about and invests only in the so called law enforcement (army, police and the border guards), ignoring other professional groups from the public sector.
On December 20, 2021, protest actions by employees of higher education were held across Poland. The protests were organised by the Polish Teachers’ Union, but sections of the IP took an active part in the actions in Warsaw, Kraków and Wrocław. The reason for the protests was the government’s failure to fulfil promised pay rises. The protesters demanded that “the terms of funding for universities and research institutes in 2022 be aligned with the actual cost of living in the country”.
Both protests are just a beginning of a broader campaign on workers’ rights and the conditions of work in art, culture, education and research.
- Migrant care-workers fight for their rights
In October 2021 we were joined by the Domestic Workers’ Committee, Poland’s first union structure for domestic workers, made up entirely of Ukrainian migrant women. It is Ukrainian women who come to Poland most often to work as child, elderly or disabled people caregivers.
The lack of regulations on domestic work and care for seniors, the differences in wages in Poland and Ukraine and the crisis of care in Poland are massively exploited by employment agencies. Some of them operate in Poland, others in Ukraine. Members of the union complain that the agencies do not in any way protect their interests – they do not guarantee them legal employment, sometimes even the residence permit. Contracts are often signed only with employers. However, the aim of the trade union is not only to fight against exploitation by temporary employment agencies or to put pressure on individual employers. According to the domestic workers, campaigns aimed at state and local authorities are necessary.
CALL FOR DONATIONS
The situations mentioned above are only a part of our daily activity and a top of an iceberg of workplace struggles and repressions against workers’ self-organization. Reacting to the conflicts at workplaces (which often erupt unexpectedly) and to support those on strike, requires money. They are needed for: preparing and distributing information materials, travel costs or hiring the lawyers. We do not receive any subsidies from the state or the employers and we want to be there, where the struggle goes on. In order to support those who resist, we need your support so that our actions are more effective.
We ask for your donations! Even small amounts count! Together, we are stronger!
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