A number of Polish miners, including Krzysztof Łabądź, leader of the trade union "Sierpień 80" in the mine "KWK Budryk", have recently been sacked.
Urgent cwi solidarity appeal
The reason for the sackings was because they participated in what management deemed to be an "illegal" strike. In particular, the sacking of the chairperson of the factory branch of the trade union, who according to Polish law enjoys special protection, is a violation of the Trade Union Act and represents an attempt to restrict trade union activities. However, the strike, which was in support of the miners’ wage claims, was organised in accordance with the procedures of the Polish law.
Management is now attempting to intimidate trade union activists by forcing them to sign a "loyalty oath" in return for reinstating them at work and has hired a private security firm to police the workforce. It seems management can afford to hire a security firm, expensive lawyers, and the cost of expensive court cases, yet it cannot afford to pay the miners a wage rise. It is clear that this is an attempt to break trade unionism in the mine.
The actions of the mine’s management not only violate Polish law, but are also a brutal attack on basic worker and trade union rights fought for and defended for over 150 years. Employers, whether they are the state or private owners, do not have the right to arbitrarily judge whether a strike is illegal. According to Polish law, participation in a strike cannot be justification for sacking its participants. In effect, the actions of the mine’s management is a practical attempt to apply a lockout, which Polish law does not yet recognise.
With the approval of the state authorities, this isolated mine in Silesia has created a testing ground to try out an old weapon of 19th century capitalism – the lockout. It is not a coincidence that an employer’s right to organise a lockout is recognised in the new draft Labour Code which has been secretly prepared without the participation of the trade unions.
In Budryk a battle is taking place which will decide the future balance of forces between the capitalists and the Polish workers’ movement. Today trade unionists from Budryk are fighting not only for their own interests as employees, but are also defending the basic rights of the whole workers’ movement. If all Polish trade unions do not show solidarity and defend the trade union and workers’ rights in KWK Budryk, tomorrow they themselves will become victims of similar actions on the part of their own employer.
Grupa na rzecz Partii Robotniczej, the Polish CWI group, has been working with trade unionists from "Sierpień 80" for some time.