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Steelworks: workers working on their own instead of dismissals

Threat of steelworks' collapse - pressure of international corporations.

The tragic situation of Silesia, the region in which the heavy industry and mining play the key role, is caused mainly by the government's actions, which ruin both of these industries. In the case of the mining industry the authority is aiming at the liquidation of this part of industry mostly because of the World Bank's dictate. In the case of the heavy industry, the instructions of the European Comission which is bossing about how much can be produced contribute to the liquidation of plants and depriving thousands of people of employment.

The one and only idea of the government for rescuing the heavy industry is looking for foreign investors, meanwhile it is only a temporary rescue, to achieve a better price for the sale of the industry. Because of this, only the best and new manufacture lines were included in the syndicate of Polish Steelworks. The interest of foreign companies is only in gaining information about the market, because Poland is a perfect market for the overproduction of western corporations overproduction. Thus, it can be expected that the liquidation preceded by the bakruptcy of most of the Polish steelworks would be the thrust of foreign investor. The creditors of our heavy industry are banks with the major participation of foreign capital. After taking charge of market and investment in purchase of our plants, this capital is interested mainly in transfering the profits abroad. Therefore, those banks won't be interested in the realisation of the development programme for heavy industry. In our country the heavy industry has got a huge production potential. For the European Union's corporations suffocating from too much overproduction it is a big danger. That is why from the beginning of 90's there are endeavours to extort a reorganisation programme from the governments which a permanent liquidation of a production potential will predict through the limitation and liquidation of some parts of steelworks and massive dismissals. The government shows an unusual submission and undertakes to accept the heavy industry destruction programme.


The general strategy which steel corporations are going by in the struggle for shrinking market is a progressing process of capital concentration and creating bigger and bigger corporations supported by states and groups of states. We can talk about the process of oligopolisation, what means formation of several big concern organisations on a big market, dividing markets among themselves and leading rivarly among each other for a restricted scale, just not to give rise to trade conflict. Whereas small and smaller organisations of steelwork production are absorbed and subortinated. In the European Union countries and in the USA there exists a strict and ruthless protection of their own markets with the help of the state or groups of states for this exact industry. The huge EU steel corporations have direct influence on political decisions not only on their governments, but also on the European Comission which fulfils their interests.

Those corporations are interested in enlarging the export mainly to the central-east Europe countries. European Comission suspended negotiations about gaining the credits for reorganization of polish heavy industry with international financial organizations, which was done exactly on demand of the EU steel corporations. It clearly shows the guidelines on which EU is going by in the negotiation process with Poland and also shows how the official declarations goes to the factual intentions and interests.

Foundry wokers dumped on the street

European Comission conceives of heavy industry of ten affiliated to EU countries, especially the heavy industry of Poland, Czech Republic and Romania, as an enormous danger for EU steelworks. They directly warn those countries that their road to membership of EU goes through the radical reorganization and further reduction of the production level. European Comission wants a reduction of employment in foundries of the affiliated countries up to 2/3 that is to say over 200 to 250 thousand people. Reogranization of this industry in the EU's propositions is assessed at about 10 billion $, but EU says itself that they don't have funds for co-financing that kind of reorganization.

European Comission tries to save its face. As though they want to give funds for steelworks' industry, but want to exchange it for the workplces' liquidation. So, thanks to the effectively running policies based on thievery of the EU, Polish Steelworks had to decrease the production drastically for getting 3 billion zlotys, but those money had to be repayed because of not using them on time.

Someone can ask why do we have to supplement steelworks when it's uneconomic. Well, the truth is that the foundries spent 1,5 billion $ fo reorganization, from which only 200 million $ were credits guaranteed by the government. The rest were own funds and commercial credits, what is unheard-of in EU countries.

European Comission's procedure, which demands a sell of our foundries to the EU's corporations, is directly dictated by the demands and interests of EU's steel corporations. It can be affirmed with full belief that the whole theory of privatization was and still is fulfilled in the direct interest of not only EU, but also of all the highly developed countries. The fact of existance of those disgraceful demands not only for the Polish side or European Comission, but also for IMF and World Bank was and still is held back by Polish political élites. The privatization process, simirarly to the whole economic trasformation, was and still is shown as a sovereign theory consequent from the economic wants. A demand for the production forces' limitation is not any longer dressed in the ideology of free market, like in the case of mining or agriculture,. EU directly exposes their intentions, demanding for writing down about how much every single foundry will decrease their production. And on top of it all, European Comission demands for reduction of production powers, those which are the most economically effective and the most advanced.

Under the government's push foundries have to reveal all the facts and figures about the production process to the European Comission's inpectors. Before that, there was an access given to the World Bank to all key information about Polish mining. What is more, an agreement was made that the basis of the estimation about the government's reorganization programme will be an estimation about the possibilities of marketing of Polish steel done by a British consulting company granted by PHARE funds.

What in exchange? In exchange the European Comission suggests help in form of donation for social protection programmes for dismissed foundries' workers, also credits but those from international financial institutions for reorganization and own contacts while selecting EU corporations in the process of privatization, which sounds now even grotesque. European Commission says that the employment should be limited to 40.000 people (now it's 95.000).

Foundries can belong to the workforce

The trade union's positions about rescuing the steelworks are divided. Some of them agree with the government's programme of looking for foreign strategy investor, but some fend that off suggesting a necessity of centralization and capital-organizational concentration meaning the huge corporations and holdings in the EU type. Another idea to create a so-called integrated treasury enterprise model, which characterizes in that it will not be anymore in the reign of representatives of the state's economic administration, nor private capital owners, but it will be handed on to the workers' teams and the management. It is different in USA where the foundries' workers rescued their workplaces thanks to the take-over of their works for keeps.

The workers' own in American steelworks has a long tradition and its formation was always connected with an immediate initiative of trade unions. The first form of this own were the cooperatives and the first wave of cooperatives organized by the cooperative unions developed during the breakthrough of 40's and 50's in 19th century. The first one was "Foundry of Steelworks' Employees' Union" cooperative. In the following years many different cooperatives were created in many different industries. Unfortunately their activity met with backlash of private capital in form of dumping rivarly or not giving a credit etc.

In th end of '60's in the 19th century a second wave of cooperatives developed. One of their popularizers were: Ira Stewart - the organizer of wide campaign in support of 8-hour work-day and Willim Sylvis - the chairman of International Union of Foundry Wokers. He called the local union's units for organizing cooperate foundries. The first of those foundries was the one called "Troy" created in 1866 getting good results at the beginning. After 2 years 11 more foundries were created and 20 were in the state of organization. Along the same like before also this new cooperative movement faltered as a result of dumping rivarly and difficulties in getting the credits. The biggest american trade union of the 19th century - Work Knights' Order was also for the cooperatives. Their aim was "to achieve a full liberation of manufacturers' goods from slavery yoke".

Unfortunately American unions movement in the end of 19th century deviated from the idea of workers' own under influence of marxists. The style of thinking and action imposed by the marxsists outlasted to the beginning of '80's in 20th century, after what it begun to be knocked out in connection with popularization of working shareholdings. Those changes initiated again with putting trade union of steelworks' industry.

Initially, after all trade unions were suspicious or even hostile to the new form of owing the employees, because working sharehold was often used as an anti-union instrument. The working capital own brought in the form of act - a plan of working capital own (ESOP) created working capital with traditional private capital. That is why it paradoxically was more profitable for employers than for employees.

Everything had changed in the beginning of '80's when, being under pressure of liberal Reagan's politics, a crisis in american heavy industry begun provoked by a cheap import of steel. Employees together started to rescue their bankrupting enterpises and it turned out that the best way was the very one working shareholding. When the company started to have a rough time, the employers usually started to turn to plant's trade union to accept the decrease of pay. Unions started to demand for action in exchange for pay concessions. Union of Heavy Industry's Employees became a sympathizer and organizer of working on their own. The union's initiative was direct, unions started to act as employees in their new form of workers-owners. In working partnerships, organized by the trade unions, the union keeps its traditional functions of employees' protection, because the conflict of interests between employees and management doesn't die out. At the same time the role of union is beginning to be widened with representing employees as owners.

In a big working enterprise the management funcions are:
- an assurance of free press for keeping contacts and discussions inside the enterprise
- checking management's and supervising counsel's activity
- public question reporting concerning managements works
- organizing meetings on the lowest rank in a way not to be ruled by the management
- preparing the ranks of undertaking plans of the enterprise
- supervising the preparing of alternative plans

Most enterprises after being redeemed by the employees from the state of bankruptcy came to the fore of heavy industry, inasmuch as for a positive solution for steelworks' problems the initiative of people who are directly involved is necessary - which means employees themselves. The wealth located in the enterprise comes from the value elaborated by all workers and should be still used in their interest but not in the interest of a narrow group of economical-political élites. Since the enterprise's workforce is on the ball about what is happening in the enterprise, it is best indentified with the enterprise, which is their "workshop" and a donor of life stabilization - that is why the reign of the workshop should be handed on to the employees.

OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza
Komisja Krajowa

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