Poland: Protest against governments plans to restructure mining industry

Over the summer and in the last weeks Poland has seen a rising tide of protests and strikes.

Miners are protesting against the proposed closure of four pits in Silesia. The Social Democratic (SLD) government is unwilling to discuss the issue, let alone reconsider it.

Thousands of Polish coal miners have started organising blockades in the industrial heartland of Silesia. The aim is to occupy the main roads crossing the province and bring traffic to a standstill. They are calling it the total blockade of Silesia. On the 12th of September they organised a demonstration in Warsaw. It turned violent as the police interfered and the workers answered their attacks with Molotov cocktails and a raid on the Ministry of Economy and SLD’s headquarters (see pictures).

Poland’s mining industry is the second biggest in Europe. Employment has already fallen from a peak of 450,000 to 142,000 people today. The restructuring plan the government is proposing for the Polish mining industry would close four pits and slash another 14,000 jobs. Last November the government was forced to withdraw a similar plan after huge protest. Then the SLD had approved for seven mines to be closed and the axing of 35,000 jobs.

Polish workers and youth face an extremely desperate situation. Average unemployment is 18%, with peaks of around 36% in provinces like Silesia. The traditional industries are closing down as employers move out in search for cheaper labour, or simply dismantle the plants to shed overcapacity. A rail factory in Ostrow Wielkopolski, in the West of Poland, faces bankruptcy. This company was privatised a number of years ago and the new owners, who are suspected of having links with the mafia, stand accused of siphoning of about 12 million Zloties from the company. The workers are organising an occupation of the factory and some of them have started a hunger strike. The workers at the Stalowa Wola Steel Plant have organised similar actions. The plant faces bankruptcy and is one of the 20 factories that are part of a holding that employs 10,000 workers. Eighty workers are talking part in an occupation of the plant, 200 are taking part in a roadblock of the main highway between Lublin and Rzeszow. These are only two out of many disputes taking place at this time.

The CWI is discussing with a group of Marxists in Poland with a view of setting up a sympathising section of the CWI. These people have actively intervened in the protests and have visited the workers of the wagon factory at Ostrow.







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