A brief account of some of the workplace conflicts, international actions and social struggles of IWA Sections.
The past year saw the Sections of the IWA organizing more workplace struggles, more solidarity campaigns and more social protests than at any time since the decimation of the anarcho-syndicalist movement in the 1930s and 40s. We are not able to make a comprehensive account of all the actions but the IWA Secretariat would like to make a summary of international actions and local activities of the Sections.
International Solidarity Campaigns
The IWA supported a number of solidarity appeals this year, mostly to demand the reinstatement of dismissed workers. All such campaigns ended positively this year, with either the reinstatement of the comrades or agreements for monetary compensation.
At the beginning of the year, we held solidarity actions for a comrade dismissed from OHL, one of the companies that cleans the streets of Madrid. Comrades in the east, where OHL is present (Poland, Slovakia and Russia) took part in the campaign. The conflict ended with an agreement between the company and dismissed employee.
At the beginning of March, solidarity actions took place in 13 countries against the practice of outsourcing at Santander Bank and for the reinstatement of the fired CNT delegate. The Sections organized actions in Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, UK, Portugal, Norway and France and sent protests in other locations where there were no targets. Comrades from other countries like Uruguay and the US also took part. Another day of action took place in June – in total three days of action were organized in for this struggle. At the end, the company paid a settlement to the comrade, who had already moved to another city. The settlement was much higher than usual and the comrade believes it is because of the actions. To show his mutual aid, he and his union decided to send some of the money to other IWA comrades in struggle.
In March there were also solidarity actions for the freedom of the imprisoned oil workers of Las Heras , Argentina. Solidarity pickets took place at embassies in Belgrade, Warsaw and Oslo and a picket took place in Newcastle, where the comrades targetted HBSC for complicity. Later there were actions in Spain as well.
In April, several sections supported the case of a comrade from Spain against TNS , the international polling company. The comrade was fired after years in the company for trying to do something against the worsening conditions at the firm. ZSP,. KRAS, NSF and ASI organized actions. In the end, the company recognized the illegal dismissal of the comrade and paid him a high compensation.
In May and June, a number of Sections send protest letters supporting workers from ZSP in Belchatow Hospital who were struggling to get their jobs back. The comrades in Slovakia also made a picket at the Polish Embassy. The workers were rehired after 3 months of occupation and action!
In June, some Sections made actions at Portinox/Teka company, to support the dismissal of the union delegate from CNT Granada. Solidarity came from Portugal, Poland, Norway and Slovakia. The comrade later was reinstated to his job!
In October, we took action against the firing of the union delegate from CNT Guadalajara from Truck and Wheel company, at the warehouse for BMW-Mini in Spain. Solidarity actions were made in Australia, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, Norway, Brazil and Germany. The comrade was reinstated to his job in the company!
The workers of the Trotzdem Bar in Dresden went on strike after some of them were fired. They interpreted this as anti-union activity. The workers set up protests outside the bar for many days. Although in the end they did not win, they fought for their dignity and set an example for many.
Workers from ZSP union at Belchatow Hospital won their jobs back after 3 months of struggle. Unfortunately, a few months later, the service provider who employed the workers started to lay off people, both in and outside the union, and increase the workloads of the others. At the beginning of November, the union decided to call an indefinite strike. Most of the other workers from this service company (cleaners and food servers) joined the strike, which was victorious after one day. In the end, more than 100 workers received normal work contracts with all benefits for the duration of the service contract.
Members of USI-AIT's various unions joined in the nationwide general strike on November 14. The main reasons for the proclamation of the strike were mostly against those laws the government is approving, in particular the Jobs Act, which is a anti-labour reform that will increase precarious work and will allow companies the utmost possibility to dismiss workers.
At the end of May, the workers from CNT in Tinamenor factory went on strike to demand fixed employment. They had been on temporary contracts for many years, although this is not allowed and they should have already been given fixed contracts. The employer responded by firing the workers. The CNT has not stopped fighting and the conflict continues.
In February, the CNT in WFS airport services went on strike for two days. There have been ongoing struggles in this company over the last couple of years. The union is struggling for the reinstatement of three comrades.
On July 1, CNT participated in a taxi drivers' strike in Barcelona, against companies like UBER or BLABLA car.
Pilar de la Horadada
The CNT union in STV Management called a 24-hour strike in September. As far as we know, the workers' struggle is still going on.
In the middle of December, CNT in Extracciones Levante called a three-day strike. The strike was motivated by some dismissals and the CNT would like a new collective agreement. We do not have any information of any results of the strike and assume the struggle in the workplace in pending.
The CNT participated in the strike of workers from Ambulancias Domingo , an ambulance company for three days at the end of December.
The CNT also is taking part in the strike of garden workers from the Madrid Rio park. There is a plan to lay off 50% of the staff, so the workers went on strike. The strike is ongoing.
We know that some CNT unions have participated in other strikes this year. Unfortunately we do not have enough information about this. There are lots of strikes in Spain and often the CNT takes part with the other unions.
ASI Education Union also took part in mass strikes in Serbia this December.
Workplace and Social Struggle around the Globe
It is difficult to get a grasp of all the workplace struggles the Sections have been involved in. Sometimes, our Sections work to provide solidarity to groups of workers, such as the Gestamp or Ceramicas Neuquen workers in Argentina. Other times, our unions take part in protest movements of workers from various unions, such as the protests of teachers and scientific workers in Moscow , which the KRAS Education and Technical workers union took part in, or protests of health care workers in Italy which members of USI-Sanita took part in. Any attempt to make a short list of struggles will inevitably leave some of them out. But a few worth noting.
In the UK, comrades from SolFed have had success this year with organizing workers and actions against wage theft.
SolFed has been organizing workers through Brighton Hospitality Workers and has won a number of direct action campaigns, mostly against wage theft at restaurants and cafes in the city. It has had a long string of wins, mostly using pickets in front of the establishments.
South London, London
SolFed helped to organize a successful campaign to help a worker get money she was owed from Green Eco Plus. They also organized an action to defend a woman fired from a language school and, as a result, she received money and a positive recommendation.
Comrades helped a worker from North Tyneside receive a large settlement.
Comrades in Slovakia have started a Problems at Work campaign, to begin dealing with more workplace problems. They report good interest and have new contacts through the campaign. Comrades in Australia have initiated a similar campaign.
Social Struggles in Brazil
Our comrades in Brazil took part in major social protests in that country. In some cities they were among various groups organized but in other places they were the only organized force which could mobilize some people in the streets.
Two members of FAU were among workers fired in the Swedish School in Berlin. Some protests and solidarity actions were held, but so far, there has been no progress towards reinstatement. There were also many demonstrations and pickets demanding pay for Mall of Berlin workers who did not receive their salaries. This situation is still pending.
No, we don't have a section in Uruguay (yet) but some comrades and comrades from ASI helped stranded Serbian workers, who weren't paid and left without visas and tickets home.
Following dismissals in Dino supermarkets, ZSP started a campaign for reinstatement, for unpaid overtime and other improvements. The supermarket chain had to start making overtime payments and made payments for past overtime to different workers. Also several improvements to health and safety measures had to be made. The union is still fighting for reinstatement and has a discrimination case in the court.
The ZSP fought a number of struggles in this city. First, there was continued actions against Impuls work agency which brought tens of thousands of zloties in overdue pay to a number of their members. Then, in one language school, the school started to make all social security and benefit payments, which it hadn't made before. The union helped workers in one sex shop get money they were owed. Then it took action with a group of cooks and waiters from Doubletree by Hilton who hadn't been paid and the workers received their money very quickly afterwards. The union also started action at Citibank, where a comrade was fired for fighting against discrimination. There are now three lawsuits against the corporate giant. Finally, in support of the comrades from ZSP Amazon, there were pickets at Manpower and Adecco agencies which had to pay workers the remainders of their salaries which they had been shorted.
In Spain there are always lots of workplace conflicts and it is hard to make a list, much less say which are most important. Some were already mentioned under international solidarity campaigns.
A few others are:
Struggle of Arvato-Qualytel workers. They do customer service for Orange, work through the company Arvato-Qualytel, but without normal contracts. They are hired as temporary workers through Adecco and Randstad. They would like to be hired directly and receive proper benefits and have stable employment. 2 members of CNT were dismissed through non-renewal of contract and a confederal campaign has been going on. An international week of action will take place starting Jan.12
The Education workers union is fighting against precarious working conditions in the University of Alcala. This includes fighting against the exploitation of fellows and doctoral teaching assistants.
The CNT won the reinstatement of a comrade dismissed from a EUREST cafeteria.
The CNT has managed to organize unions in several cities in Phone House. There have been numerous pickets organized around Spain, demanding better working conditions for the staff.
Another campaign which takes place in various cities is against Mercadona supermarkets. Earlier in the year, the supermarket had to pay half a million euros in compensation to fired workers. CNT continues to organize in the supermarkets and organize pickets around Spain.
The CNT managed to win the reinstatement of the comrade dismissed from SOS Childrens' Villages.
The CNT won a settlement with Dominos Pizza who dismissed a member.
Repression and Solidarity
USI in San Carlo Hospital was repressed and ordered to pay a huge fine for supposedly insulting the bosses of the hospital. The IWA donated money to help.
Comrades from COB in Araxa are being repressed. There were bogus criminal charges against one comrade, as well as charges of being in an „illegal union”. The case is ongoing.
In Serbia, the state is still trying to prosecute the Belgrade 6, whose case was appealed and re-opened after their aquital in 2010. The state is also trying to make a few fake criminal charges against other ASI members.
Several bosses have tried to make criminal cases and lawsuits against ZSP members for their syndical activity. So far the none of the criminal cases have stuck and the comrades have escaped punishment through the courts.
Several IWA Sections have already protested against repressions against anarchists in Spain. Comrades from France, Serbia, Portugal and Brazil have protested and denounced the repressions and of course the CNT has taken action across Spain.
The IWA organized some presentations, workshops and training this year. The first was in Holland, where there was discussion of anarchosyndicalist organization and action. The next was in Hongkong and Taiwan, which saw many discussions and exchange with local activists.
Priama akcia also organized an international conference about organizing and internal matters in Bratislava.
Some Sections have been participating in a number of other campaigns. For example, in Lisbon and in Araxa, there are ongoing campaigns for free public transportation. In Warsaw, there is huge involvement in housing struggles. In Spain there are some collective projects such as the small farm Huerta de SOV Madrid. In Belgrade, ASI has been very active in student occupations and struggles.
We wish we could list all the struggles our Sections have been involved with, or events that they organized but this task cannot be realized by the IWA Secretariat this New Year's Eve. It is time to celebrate a successful year and to look forward to a new year filled with new struggles, new successes of our comrades and hopefully new comrades from around the world who want to work in solidarity. We wish all of our comrades from the IWA, from our Friends and comrades from non-affiliated organizations a Happy New Year and good luck to us all in the nearest future. We still hold a new world in our hearts.
Long live anarchosyndicalism and the IWA!
Dec. 31, 2014
(Updates may be published on the IWA web page: http://www.iwa-ait.org/content/struggles-and-victories-iwa-2014)