POLAND: Miners Occupy their Workplace

URGENT SOLIDARITY ACTION NEEDED

By Paul Newberry, GPR (Polish socialist group, in the CWI)

Five hundred coal miners are taking part in an occupation strike 1,000m underground in the Polish mine Budryk. This is the biggest underground strike in Polish history. The protest started in mid-December, but, at the beginning of January 2008, the miners decided to move their occupation of the mine underground.

The miners demand equal pay to the level of employees of Jastrzebska Coal Company, which has just taken over their mine. Although productivity in the Budryk mine is twice the industry average, they have the lowest wages in the mining industry.

However, the strike has provoked the class hatred of all the main political parties, which are united in their denunciations and attacks on the miners. All the Polish newspapers are attacking the miners’ strike, spreading lies and slanders, including the so-called “respectable” “democratic” newspapers, such as Adam Michnik’s Gazeta Wyborcza. Jaroslaw Zagorowski, president of the Jastrzebska Coal Company, compared the trade unions organising the strike in Budryk to plane hijackers and called the strike leaders “terrorists”.

Unfortunately, such attacks have not only come from the side of big business and its paid hirelings in the Polish parliament. Solidarnosc is playing a strikebreaking role in this dispute, something not untypical for this so-called ‘trade union’. Marek Szolc, leading trade unionist of Solidarnosc in the Budryk mine, and a prominent anti-globalist in ATTAC, scandalously called for the state to urgently intervene and use all means necessary to break the strike. Similarly, another mining union, ZZG, joined the bosses and are attacking the two unions, August 80 and Kadr, which are behind the strike.

The real terrorists are the coal mafia – the corrupt trade unionists and managers in the coal sector, who act as parasites on the industry and siphon off the profits of the mines to their own private companies. This is the real reason why trade unions such as Solidarnosc oppose the strike – their leaders have, long ago, gone over to the side of the bosses and abandoned any serious struggle to improve workers’ rights and conditions. The terror they introduced in the mines led directly to the deliberate falsification of the gas sensors in Halemba mine, just over a year ago, in which 23 miners were killed in a methane explosion.

Miners determined to win

However, the miners are determined to win and so are their families. Everyday wives and families of the striking miners picket outside the mine to show their support. Miners and their supporters, including the Group for a Workers’ Party (GPR) (the Polish CWI), are trying to build solidarity support for the strike. Over the last 2 years, miners from August 80 have travelled the length and breadth of the country supporting workers in struggle and defending women’s rights. The level of solidarity which they have displayed is unprecedented in recent Polish history. Now the miners of August 80 need the support of other workers. On 10 January, there will be a demonstration outside Budryk mine and pickets in a number of cities in Poland, including Warsaw.

GPR is calling for solidarity action with the miners of Budryk. Not only do we demand the wage rise which the miners rightly deserve, but we are also calling for an end to privatisation. We believe this strike and the experience of the Halemba tragedy has shown the desperate need for workers control and management of the industry.

We support the call of the Strike Committee for international solidarity and support for the strike. Payments can be made under the name “Support fund for families of striking miners of Budryk”. The bank account is POLU PL PR PL 23 8454 1053 2001 0041 5426 0001. The name of the bank: Orzesko-Knurowski Bank, Spódzielczy Oddzia, Ornontowice, Poland.

Messages of support can be sent to the Polish cwi comrades at poldek@mdnet.pl

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