Austria: Striking Slovakian workers win court case against Mondi Company

International solidarity – more then a slogan!

Recently, workers for the Mondi Company in Slovakia, who were fired by management (see recent reports on this site), won an important court case. The Slovakian court rule that the sackings were illegal and that Mondi has to take the workers back and pay them wages for the last eight months.

The international solidarity campaign for the Mondi workers, in particular, in the Czech Republic and Austria, played a key part in leading to this successful conclusion.

Sonja, from the CWI in Austria, reports on the solidarity campaign in that country.

Striking Slovakian workers win court case against Mondi Company

Sometimes, when you picket an embassy or the headquarters of a company, with a small group of people, and hand over a protest petition and chant slogans, you question if these types of activities make any difference. Well, the recent case concerning Slovakian Mondi workers shows they do!

In the last few months, the multinational company Mondi came under increasing pressure from an international campaign in solidarity with dismissed workers in the Mondi’s Slovakian plant in Ruzomberok. Mondi fired the workers because they where demanding higher wages and set up a fighting trade union (see previous articles on the site).

The Ruzomberok workers started a campaign against the company’s actions and, in Austria the CWI also took it up.

Mondi has two plants in Austria, where East European expansion of the EU, and the threat of competition, based on cheaper labour and costs, from the East, is discussed heatedly by many Austrians.

During last month, we organised activities to inform people about Mondi’s disgusting behaviour and to put pressure on the management. We organised pickets at the Viennese sales offices, as well as in front of the offices of Veit Sorger, from the supervisory board of Mondi. We fly-posted and had a joint meeting with colleagues from Ruzomberok in Vienna. We organised, together with the Slovakian workers, pickets at the company’s factory in Hausmening, handing out leaflets that explained that the best way to save jobs in Austria is to support the workers in Slovakia in their struggle – to fight for jobs, decent wages and conditions, and for union rights, everywhere.

The Mondi Company were worried about the international solidarity campaign and started putting extra money into its Public Relations, without success. Unfortunately, the Mondi workers’ union did nothing to support the stikers.

On 28 June, Austrian television had a 30 minute programme on the dispute. An estimated 351,000 people watched the report about the situation facing the workers who did nothing more than demand a living wage. They saw the manager of the Slovakian plant, Pichler, explain that they “had to be fired” because they where demanding higher wages and threatening a strike. And they heard about the successful court case, which saw the Slovakian court rule that the sacking of the workers was illegal and that Mondi has to take them back and pay them wages for the last eight months.

Political pressure might have influenced the judge – but it definitely was important that workers in Ruzomberok stayed the course.

This case shows that international workers’ solidarity is more then a slogan – it is the most effective weapon to fight against cuts and layoffs!

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