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Workers' protests in Poland from May to June 2004

Rebellion of Avon's women
Monday, 21.06.2004, 17:55, /pap-polish press agency/

"Gazeta Wyborcza" (polish daily newspaper): Since ten years the power of Avon on direct sell market has been built by women. Today five of them sue the company.
For the first time someone from 500 thousand people working in this trade wants to be conceded as a worker not as an independent enterprener.

Katarzyna Swidzinska from Lublin is 36, has a housing loan to pay and sedative medicines next to her. In 1995 she was a young mother on maternity leave. Earlier in administration of Municipal Utility of Refining she was writing out drivers cards, she was serving coffee. But then she was reduced. Then a friend of hers got her into Avon. She was quickly promoted for a regional manager of trade (so-called OKS). "My friend got me into it. Cosmetics open a lot of doors, they are a great souvenir for doctors, officials. I phoned all my friends, after few weeks I was promoted for a coordinator. I was selling and recruiting new girls. They noticed me. I became an OKS in Lublin, one of 200 of them in Poland" - the daily writes.

 

Swidzinska had only a civil contract. Avon was squeezing as much power from her as it could. When a year ago they fired her, she sued them. "I am fighting for my dignity" - she says. Some other OKSes do the same thing right after her. That is the elite of Avon, OKSes manage 240 thousand consultants who sell cheap lipsticks, creams, shampoos (Avon doesn't have shops, it's an army of people that made it a leader of direct sell in Poland). The consultants - students, teachers, officials, pensioners - they all envy OKSes their cell-phones, trips to exotic countries, leasing cars, photos with polish pop-stars on company banquets. From their superiors they hear: "Girls, try to sell more and more if you want to have the same shoes that I have for 1000 zlotys". (Experts on marketing call it "juicing" - like squeezing the juice from a fruit) - the newspaper writes.

But year after year it was much more difficult to get a new client. The market was full, Avon has rivals eg. Oriflame or Mary Kay. The company demand more and more. OKSes have a profit on cosmetics that the consultants sell. The comission depends on a realization of a plan. If they realize it then the next will be higher. Some OKSes turn the results up: they do shopping for "dead souls", they inflate the number of trainings' participators. Swidzinska was earning even 20 thousand a month but she didn't receive those money. As a one-person company she had to pay for renting the bureau, trainings' halls, leasing of car, telephones, gifts for consultants, fees for social insurance. About 3 thousand zlotys were left - daily informs.

All her life depended on work. She woke up at 7:30 a.m., she had to check faxes, e-mails from her superior. Working in bureau from 10 a.m. or visits away, "prospecting" (looking for candiates for new consultants). Break at 1 p.m. - she had to pick up her child from school. Then the trainings: about cosmetics, about marketing. After 8 p.m. receiving text messages from her inferiors, make a report for her superior. Swidzinska woke up just after Avon broke a contract with her. The myth of "company for women" collapsed. Swidzinska was left with a loan, a perspective of low retirement pension (because she paid very low social insurance) and deep depression - the daily writes.

Now she demands the court to concede that even if she formally cooperated with Avon in fact she was working in the company as a full-time working manager. If she wins, she will receive a reference, a rebuff and a refund for unaccomplished leaves. But the stake is much higher. If the court concedes the OKSes for full-time workers, the Inland Revenue will have to demand Avon to pay the unaccomplished payment on account for income tax, and Social Insurance Office - fees from their gross earnings. That would be for 5 years back plus percentages. It's about tens of millions zlotys - the daily writes.

 

Unionists from Wagon S.A. took a report up with Public Prosecutor's Office accusing the company's official reviewer
Wednesday, 26.05.2004, 17:19, /pap-polish press agency/

A report about commiting a crime by a bankruptcy mass official reviewer of Wagon Factory S.A. (public company) in Ostrow Wielkopolski has been repoted in Public Prosecutor's Office by all trade unions acting in the company.

The unionists demand explaining the circumstances of purchasing the business car.

The unionists claim that the official reviewer has made a financial harm to the company by deciding about buying 4-year-old Ford Focus combi for 40 thousand zlotys. According to the unionists the auto with a course of 70 thusand kilometres was buought from one of the Warsaw's company's which president is the official reviewer Elzbieta Kosewska-Kedzior.
In justification in the report that was also given to PAP the unionists wrote that the official rewiever "abused her authorizations by groundless purchase of an used car for a price that is hiher than its real value".

In conversation with Pap Kosewska-Kedzior informed that Wagon's Concil of Creditors agreed to buy the car for a price up to 60 thousand zlotys week before the end of April. "I could have sold my car to another company but that is a bery good car and I wanted it to serve the factory. The economical count decided and it's more important than the media regards" - she explained. "Maybe it would have been better for me if the company have bought a more expensive car in showroom" - she added.
There was another controversial purchase of car in Wagon in 2001 when the of the time Slovakian management bought Mercedes 430 E that belonged to a company in Slovakia. The car costed 209 thousand lotys when its real market value in Poland due to experts was 103 thousand zlotys. In October 2003 Public Prosecutor's Office in Kalisz accused four former members of the management for doing damage to property of company that was more that 100 thousand zlotys. The case didn't finish till today.

Since the beginning of 2001 to August 2003 Wagon as a property of registered in Switzerland Slovakian enterprises: Partner marketing AG (30 % of shares) and Tatrawagon AG (19,3 %) and also Parters Group that has its headquaters in Poland (3,56 %) was administred by representatives of Slovakian owners of the biggest shares packet. For more that a year now the Public Prosecutor's Office in Kalisz is carrying an investigation on in case of five former members of top management of Wagon who are suspicious for bringing huge damages in the company's property. There are four Slovakians and one one Switch amongst them.

The court in Kalisz announced a bankruptcy of the enterprise in September 2003. At present 1900 people works there. Still several years ago Wagon was hiring about eight thousand workers.

 

Tramway-workers threaten to strike
Wednesday, 26.05.2004, 17:18, /pap-polish press agency/

"Our Daily" ("Nasz Dziennik"): If representatives of 5 trade unions from Municipal Enterprise of Transport (MPK) in Poznan don't access to an agreement with the management of the company there might be a communication paralysis in capital of Wielkopolska Province.

The trade unionists demand to be payed the outstanding prizes, rises of salaries and keeping the "thirteens" (an extra payment for 13th month of work) - "Our Daily" informs.

The unionists that theatened the management of Poznan's MPK to strike and what connects with that - a retention of municipal buses and tramways communication - demand to be payed the outstanding prizes and the "thirteens". They claim that thanks to their job the financial situation of the company decidedly improved and last losses that MPK had are only caused because of the management's wrong decisions - the newspaper discloses.

The wrong decision was to be a purchase of tramways of german company Siemens. It turned out that the machines not only have to be repaired very quickly but additionally, as the time showed, as a result of change of the rate of currency they were bought for strongly inflated price. A payment of 27,5 million euro was guaranteed to be payed for fourteen rail vehicles that were to be delivered to Poznan by Siemens. But it turned out that no one from the signing the document didn't take care about marking the then current rate of euro that was 3,64 zlotys. Meanwhile euro appreciated and its price is about 4,70 zlotys. Due to that rate Poznan have to pay for the delivery. Poznan's MPK lost about 20 million zlotys on whole transaction - the daily reminds.

The authorities of MPK in Poznan turn the unionists' postulates down claiming that their company doesn't have money for paying the prizes and the "thirteens". The reason of a difficult situation of MPK is as they say diminishing of grant-in-aid from the city budget. Meanwhile for realisation of the workers claims they need about 6 million zlotys as the chief of MPK Wojciech Tulibacki claims. An independent negotiator takes part in the negotiatons between the unionists and the management. The earlier tries to have an agreement between the trade unions that already came into a collective conflict with the company's management didn't result anyway. If the present negotiations finish with a fiasco there will be a strike referendum amongst the crew - "Our Daily" writes.

 

Picket of "Solidarity" in front of PKN Orlen's management's building
Wednesday, 19.05.2004, 16:44, /pap-polish press agency/

Wednesday afternoon in front of the building of PKN Orlen (Polish Oil Concern) in Plock at sounds of alarm sirens and whistles a picket of NSZZ "Solidarity" in defence of workplaces and the headquaters of concern began.

According to the organizers almost 1000 members of the trade union from all over the country took part in the demonstration.

"We have such a situation in Poland that work positions are highest goods. People don't put it out onto harm without any reasons. The fact that people in refinery decide to do such action proves that they feel endangered" chairman of "Solidarity" Janusz Sniadek who took part in the protest told the journalists. He added that the demonstration is "a warning signal and a resistance against wrong processes of restructure and privatization that already harmed a lot of plant in the country".

 

A picket of PKS Kozienice's workers in front of Parlament
Friday, 14.05.2004, 17:18, /pap-polish press agency/

Almost 50 workers of PKS Kozienice (Mazovia Province) were protesting on Friday in front of Parlament's building against dissmissals in their workplace.

"Since 24th February there is a occupation strike in our plant. We are striking because more than 150 people were dissmissed from our plant. Since the beginning of strike we don't receive our salaries" - chairman of management of "Solidarity" of Radom region Zdzislaw Maszkiewicz said.
He added that the protest was organized in front of the Parlament building to let the deputies notice the case of the company. "We also came here on the day when the new Prime Minister will have his expose delivered and maybe he will notice the tragic fate of families of people working in PKS Kozienice" - the member of trade union said.
The picket lasted almost two hours.

Strike in Kozienice's PKS started on the 24th February when the workforce stuck up for Miroslaw Poslowski - the chief of plant's "Solidarity" who got a dissmissal notice because of broken tachograph in his bus - a device that registers number of traveled kilometers. When the crew started to occupy the plant, 114 workers received dissmissal notices and in the end of March next 44 did; the strikers no longer received their salaries.

The strike comitee took up a report with public prosecutor 's office about not paying the salaries for the striking crew in February. In the beginning of April District Public Prosecutor 's Office in Kozienice remitted the trial because it said that not paying the salaries was not a result of malicious or persistent actions of company's management.

51 % parts of PKS belongs to Lodz's Institute of Creative Procedures. The rest of shares belong to the Treasure of State.

 
Znin: sugar factory's workers refused to accept employer's proposal
Wednesday, 12.05.2004, 22:49 /pap-polish press agency/

On Wednesday workers from the sugar factory "Znin" (Kujawy-Pomerania Province) refused to accept proposals from National Sugar Corporation (KSC) to finish a conflict. The workforce still demands cancelling a decision of closing the plant.

"During Tuesday evening's talks with the management we were proposed a partition of workers to sugar factories in Kruszwica and in Naklo and also financial guaranties of social packet assuring work position or a financial equivalent within three years. We treat those propositions as a packet and in that form they were refused to agree by all crew", the leader of the plant's trade unions Marek Wojciechowski told PAP.

The workforce, in whose name 16 people are undertaking a hunger protest, is still demanding to lenghten the existance of their plant to the end of the year. In their opinion only one more sugar campaign will be able to switch the factory to a different type of production peacefully.
The KSC offers the workers to keep part of the work posistions in the warehouse base, that is to stay in the town and moving the rest of the workforce to different corporation's plants in the province. The protesters don't accept that kind of solution.

The management of KSC sent a survey to all workers from Znin with a question where would they like to continue their job: in Kruszwica or in Naklo. But the surveys are sent back almost always with a response: "I am only interested in working in Znin on the same position".
"The hunger protest will be still taking place, but from Friday 16 men will be replaced by 10 women. The reason is prosaic: the protest is not a strike and we are taking it only during our leaves and they are finishing right now" Wojciechowski added.

A month ago the KSC decided to close the sugar factory in Znin this year and also the plant "Borowiczki", "Sokolow" in Mazovia Province and "Klemensow" in Lublin Province. As a reason of liquidation of Znin's factory they said that they have the smallest day average of beetroots' proccessing among six plant of the corporation in Kujawy-Pomerania Province and also lack of possibility to enlarge it without an expensive investment and extension.


The prostesters laughed at government's declaration
Wednesday, 12.05.2004, /pap-polish press agency/

Representatives of medical professions protested on Wednesday in Warsaw. They demanded among others renegotations of the contracts with the National Health Fund (NFZ) and also a realization the so-called law 203 in which a rise of salary for the medical personel was assured.
According to the organizers about 5 thousand people took part in the protest that was organized by Polish Administrative Districts Union (ZPP). Flags of "Solidarity" and banners with words: "Together in defence of patients" were carried.

The protesters also demanded an immediate improvement of conditions of hospitals' working and assuring the patients all the indispensable services.
"Most hospitals in Poland have huge debts. The government's idea for cancelling the debts is a restucture that is only about that employees are dismissed and the debts still increase. Restructure in this form will only lead to a total extermination of health serive's plants" - one of the protesters, a nurse from hospital in Zyrardow, Teresa Lefelt told PAP.

"If anyone said that dissmissnig more and more employees from medical posts and closing more and more hospitals is still possible, then that's a lie. There cannot be more limitations in health service because it can be a danger for patients and workers of health service" - Konstanty Radziwill, president of General Doctors Council said.

A delegation of protesters met with the president of NFZ Leslaw Abramowicz, minister of health Wojciech Rudnicki and vice-Prime Minister Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka in the building of Office of Prime Minister. After those talks the delegates appealed to all directors of health service posts to break contracts with the National Health Fund.

When the president of ZPP Ludwik Wegrzyn told the gathered people that "the government declared a will to have a dialogue" the response was laugh.

Wegrzyn also said that the government's representatives declared to regulate the case of payments due to the law 203 from the year 2000. "The case is to be settled till the end of May, but it depends whether this government will still exist" - he added (in this law all workers of public health service posts were to have been given a rise of 203 zlotys in 2001 and 171 zlotys in the following year, but the source wasn't given).

In Maria Ochman's opinion (she is the chairman of Health Security Secretariat in National Council of Trade Union "Solidarity") the law 203 is a "gauge of government's honesty". "A continuation of talks with the government and NFZ depends only on settling this case, because all problems of health service start with the +203+" - she emphasizes.

During a press conference after the demonstration Wegrzyn said that if the rises aren't paid before the end of May, most of the administrative districts' hospitals will break the contracts with NFZ.
He emphasized that governments' declarations about solving the problem aren't enough. "The contracts will be broken because that's the best argument for health service's workers to demobilize the government to make the declarations of its reprezentatives from Wednesday come true" - he added.

Due to Marek Wojcik's from ZPP statistics the debt from title of rises of 550 administrative districts' hospitals is now equal to 3,5 billion zlotys.

In the protesters' opinion by struggling for their money they are also struggling for patients' good. "I am a danger for a patient. I work 12 hours a day. Patient is only on a paper. I wouldn't like myself to cure in that kind of hospital" - said a nurse from Szczecin's hospital who wanted to stay anonymous.
The chairman of All-Polish Union of Doctors Krzysztof Bukiel said that the Wednesday's demonstration was a funeral of polish health service.

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