Poland: Workers at bus company strike against privatization

Poland: Workers at bus company strike against privatization

Workers at the state-owned bus company PKS in Gostynin have been striking since Tuesday. They are against the privatization of the company and demand its communalization. And they are threatening to escalate protests.

Workers are also demanding pay rises.

The State Treasury announced in December that it wanted to sell PKS bus companies in seven cities in the Mazowsze region. Besides Gostynin, they want to sell the companies in Minsk Mazowiecki, Ciechanow, Mława, Ostrołęka, Płock and Przasnysz. The workers are afraid of what may happen after privatization. Typically, privatized bus companies have seen stark cuts in workplaces and wages, and the introduction of worse working conditions and precarious contract labour.

On Tuesday the State Treasury announced that it would not stop the sale of this PKS. The deadline for receiving offers is today.

However, the State Treasury decides selectively about the fate of such companies, tending to sell off the profitable ones, or the ones with property. On the other hand, there was communalization of the PKS is Siedlice, Łosice and Sokolow Podlaski and local governments took them over in places such as Wadowice, Nowy Sącz, Krakow and Starogard Gdanski. And on May 6, the State Treasury transfered ownership of PKS to the local governments (poviats) in Łukow and Raciborz.

In response to the strike, PKS Gostynin is trying to hire strike breakers. 88 of the 109 workers, including all the drivers, are on strike. There are 4 unions operating in this workplace. The strikers have occupied the building and have been staying there overnight.

They are presently considering how to escalate the protests and which actions they can take.

Posted By

akai
May 7 2010 09:32

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Comments

Ed
May 7 2010 11:14

Cheers for this Akai, keep us updated on how things develop!

akai
May 7 2010 13:30

They've called us to come there, where it will probably be the usual story of workers wanting to do something more and union bosses trying to get them to calm down. We will see.

akai
May 8 2010 03:58

Some more info: the workers started a hunger strike yesterday. There is also news that PKS in Ostroleka may also strike. I also found out that some jobs (15%) supposed to be cut already as an incentive to a future purchaser. It is now common that job cuts proceed all privatizations.

The workers earn pretty close to minimum wage: about 300 euros per month. They are demanding also a raise of about 125 euros.

Steven.
May 8 2010 10:09

thanks for the updates

akai
May 9 2010 19:43

It seems that strike breakers are already in place. The company is also using drivers from two nearby cities which aren't striking. A strike breaker told me that in one city they are more or less forced to take the extra hours.

To make matters worse, (and perhaps a harbinger of what is to come once it is privatized), not every route is being covered. The buses are not running on local runs to some villages which primarily serve to bring poor children to school (and practically no cost, making it "not profitable"). So these people are very inconvenienced by the strike.

(Of course there is nothing to prevent the drivers from commandeering a few buses and taking the kids to school for free.)

At this point, the strikers fear permanent job loss and are getting nervous.

MT
May 9 2010 20:00

do workers from other towns face the same problem? any chance of finding a common topic and struggle? are any of them unionized?

akai
May 10 2010 03:46

MT, unfortunately a couple of workers from other towns are among the scabs. sad One scab who I spoke to yesterday claims that a couple of bus drivers in the next city (which is less than 25km away), are being forced to drive extra hours to cover a few routes.) I do not know how that is possible being that all the bus companies are either unionized or have a work council. Obviously top priority for people today is to deal with the scabs somehow.

Workers from another city are having a strike referendum today and we know a worker from yet another city and will try to see what they are planning. But it is obvious that they have to cooperate for there to be a good success - or at least the unionists there have got to prevent scabbing and show support.

About the unions - as you know we are famous in Poland for our trade union pluralism. In the case of Gostynin, there are 4 unions at a 100-person workplace. This means that there are two mainstream unions (Solidarity and OPZZ) and two independent ones. One of the independent ones seems quite radicalized - but you know, it is less than 20 people. A lot will depend then on Solidarity, which has structures in most PKS-s and would be the most likely force to coordinate something in the places effected. Of course we can make propaganda there, but since we do not have activists on the spot (only parent of one @), we have to sit today and see what the locals do. And Solidarity HQ is in Warsaw so I can go there and make a scandal about scabs and maybe centrala will do something.

akai
May 12 2010 07:06

There was supposed to be a meeting with the director of the local PKS but he started threatening that if the workers don't stop the strike, he will file for bankruptcy of the company. Currently they are occupying the director's office.

akai
May 19 2010 10:22

There was a meeting with the board of PKS, the State Treasury and a representative of the workers yesterday in Warsaw, which ended in nothing except the management telling the workers that they can't even negotiate with them until the go back to work.

The tactics have still not been radical enough, although the strike and occupation continues. Today the workers are discussing what to do next.

Forgot to mention the scab situation was taken care of last week.

Interestingly enough, one of the companies that submitted a bid to buy the company is a so-called worker-run company, PKS Grodzisk Mazowiecki, a firm we had some experience with a few years ago in Warsaw when they were screwing Ukrainian bus drivers who then had a small wildcat strike. The working conditions in this company remain miserable, although the worse abuse ended after this strike action.

akai
May 20 2010 14:07

Finally, after the fiasco of talks, they will finally all come to Warsaw tomorrow. But we will see how radical or not they will behave.

akai
Jul 23 2010 07:28

I should have updated this a while ago. The leader of the biggest union signed a deal which basically became binding on all. Workers got nothing - except the management was changed and PKS promised to take their demands "into account".

In the end, the company was not privatized. BUT, the workers are still getting screwed. The local authorities, who had originally expressed their willingness to take over the company appear to have reneged on the deal. They are saying that the financial conditional of the company is too poor because of the strike.

More here: http://cia.bzzz.net/blackmail_regarding_strike_at_pks_gostynin