After 46 days on strike, the miners of Budryk have won a victory.
They have won a 10% wage rise and an equalisation payment for last year. This is a little less than their original demands. However, if it had not been for the strike, the miners would not have seen a single penny of that money.
All the public and private media was mobilised against the Budryk miners as well as the rotten trade unions, Solidarity and ZGG. A PR firm was hired to slander the strikers. The ground was being prepared for a physical confrontation to end the strike, with one of the Solidarity leaders at the mine and a leading ATTAC member urging the government to use force to end the occupation. The deputy prime minister, Pawlak, came out against the miners, showing clearly who he and his government serve.
Despite all this, the agreement guarantees a wage rise. Wages will be equalised with other miners in Poland – faster in Jastrzebska Coal Mining Company to the benefit of all miners employed by the firm – not only at Budryk. Moreover, miners on part-time contracts will receive permanent employment contracts. This is a big victory, not only for the workforce of Budryk coal mine but for all workers.
However, there would not have been any victory if it had not been for the iron determination of two trade unions: the Free Trade Union “August 80” and “Kadra”.
There was constantly the atmosphere of the danger of repression and the use of force to end the strike. A taste of this occurred on last Christmas Eve, when a private security firm tried to smash the strike. They failed. So did the strike-breakers organised by Solidarity and ZGG.
The media tried to persuade people that the strikers at Budryk are the enemies of miners from other mines. A sympathetic TV journalist who went down the mine and interviewed the strikers was immediately charged by the public prosecutor with putting people’s lives at risk!
But the strikers were not isolated. According to opinion polls, 69% supported the strike. The workforce of Budryk received solidarity support from the Warsaw tram and bus drivers, nurses, workers of Cegielski factory in Poznan, the polymer systems factory in Czestochowa, postal workers, fishermen, as well as trade unions from Poland and other countries, including Swedish miners and the CWI’s Swedish councillors.
The international campaign was the biggest in Poland since 1989. Other miners whoe are members of August 80 brought food, blankets and liquids to the striking miners, every day. Finally the miners’ wives and girlfriends went to Warsaw, demanding a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Pawlak. His refusal to meet them will forever tarnish him as a coward and a servant of the bosses.
It was August 80 and Kadra of Budryk who won this victory, showing what enormous strength workers have if they do not give in to terror and allow themselves to be divided.
However, this is not the end. It is only the beginning. The witch-hunt was organised against Budryk precisely because the bosses did not want Budryk to serve as an example for other workers. They did not want miners from other mines, as well as nurses, railway workers, and steelworkers, to see what an effective weapon a strike can be.
A wave of wage demands is sweeping through the whole country. During this strike an increasing number of protests began to break out. Now there will be more.
This strike showed that a victory for the workers is possible, even in the most difficult situation. The struggle continues!