In the past few months, a struggle of dozens of workers has taken place at the Chinese Chung Hong Electronics factory, a supplier of LG in a Polish Special Economic Zone in Kobierzyce near Wroclaw. Workers entered the collective labor dispute with a series of demands: a wage increase, the restoration of the social fund, the reduction of the annual overtime limit, the restoration of free transport for workers etc.
As no agreement was reached between the employer and employees, workers carried out a strike referendum, and the strike was supported by a majority of workers. The employer refused all demands, and industrial action was organized according to the Polish labor law – despite of its weaknesses like a long procedure that in reality stifles workers' unrest.
On June 28 one worker, a member of the Inicjatywa Pracownicza (Workers' Initiative) labor union, was dismissed. Immediately, forty workers went on strike that lasted two weeks. On July 10 the company hit back and sacked 24 striking workers for disciplinary reasons.
That is a lockout by the Chinese employer who violates the freedom of association stipulated in the Polish labor and union law.
Currently, Chung Hong Electronics is looking for new workers through temporary job agencies.
The sacked workers staged protests in front of the Chung Hong factory as well as in front of LG Electronics, both located in the same SEZ (see photos). However, LG used the media to announce that the workers' protest "spreads chaos, creates a negative investment climate and blocks the economic development of Poland, and leads to a deterioration of diplomatic relations with the biggest investor countries in Poland; the result of it will be an increased unemployment in Poland."
LG Electronics and Chung Hong are situated in a Special Economic Zone, which grants them tax reductions and other form of state support. This company benefits from public subsidies while openly violating workers' rights.
Among the dismissed are long-term and highly qualified employees who had worked at Chung Hong for five years. They only earned the Polish minimum wage, but now they are deprived of any source of income. Among them are single mothers.
The workers will assert their rights in the labor courts, but their case will probably last for more than one year. How will they survive until then? If you are sacked on disciplinary grounds in Poland you cannot get unemployment benefit. What is more, the workers will find it hard to find a new job if their work record includes "fired for illegal strike action."
In Poland, the globalization of the economy could mean that the influx of Chinese commodities is followed by the import of Chinese labor standards. The right to strike was a result of intense workers' struggles in Poland in the 1980s, and it was finally introduced in 1990. Until today it has became a fiction. The right to strike is constantly being violated, and Hong Chung is just one example. Big business is attacking those who have often paid a high price for defending the freedom of association and the right to strike.
The workers of Chung Hong, their labor union Inicjatywa Pracownicza and all supporters demand the reinstatement of the sacked workers, full compensation and the fulfillment of all workers' demands.
We will not give up!
Solidarity Strike Fund
A Solidarity Strike Fund was created to support the striking Chung Hong workers. The collected money will be used for the financial support of those workers who are in the most difficult situation and for covering the strike costs.
Please, transfer money to:
OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza
Address: ul. Kościelna 4, 60-538 Poznań, Poland
Bank: Volkswagen Bank direct
Address: Rondo ONZ 1, 00-124 Warsaw, Poland
Account number: 88 2130 0004 2001 0577 6570 0001
SWIFT: PL88 2130 0004 2001 0577 6570 0001
Reference: "Chung Hong Solidarity Strike Fund"