Wildcat Germany on the consumer electronics industry and conditions for workers in Lodz, Poland, following an attack on a foreman after the death of a worker.
Translated from Wildcat 75, December 2005
Masked men attack a manager from the Indesit kitchen stove factory and cut his face with a razor knife: This story from Lodz went through the Polish press in October. The attack came one day before the funeral of a young worker whose head had been crushed by a two-ton sheet metal press in the neighbouring refrigerator factory which also belongs to the Indesit corporation. The automatic stop mechanism had been removed from the machine in order to prevent the line from being stopped all the time. In the link above, we print excerpts from a reportage from the daily paper Gazeta Wyborcza. 
The reportage shows graphically what a Western corporation’s brand-new large factory in Eastern Europe looks like for the workers: hiring predominantly through temporary work agencies, low wages  for which skilled workers do not want to work, a correspondingly high turnover, brutal norms which are achieved by avoiding security regulations and endless - partly unpaid - overtime. A factory command which is almost exclusively organised through pressure.
The media as well as the police have immediately made a connection between the fatal work accident and the attack on the manager - a connection which is refused by local leftists. An article for the Nowy Robotnik also criticises that “there is no political consciousness in the plant. We haven’t met any charismatic people who would take up the task of organising a union or a strike in the plant.” 
Similar complaints can be heard from factory leftists in many Western European plants. But most workers neither form unions nor attack their managers but work overtime. At Indesit in Lodz they seem to do it with a deep alienation towards the factory and growing hate of their bosses. It was exactly this impression - the lack of mediation between workers and management in one of the new centres on which capital says it plans to base its future - which we found interesting when we heard of the attack, and this reportage has only reinforced the impression.
Lodz, Polands second-largest city with 770,000 inhabitants, was considered the “Manchester of the East” since the 1860s, it was one of the centres of the Russian Revolution of 1905, and it was a centre of the textile industry through the 1980s. Most textile factories have closed down since the collapse of the Eastern European markets.  At 16.8 per cent, unemployment in Lodz is only slightly lower than the national average of 18 per cent, but significantly higher than in other big cities like Warsaw (6.3), Poznan (6.7), or Cracow (7.4 per cent). Accordingly, the city advertises the fact that local manufacturing wages are at only 85 per cent of the Polish average. 
The city administration had the consulting firm McKinsey devise a “strategy” which among other things proposes a focus on the household appliance industry which is currently leaving Western Europe.  With some success: In the last few years, the big names of the industry have settled here. There are 1700 people working just in the two Indesit plants which were opened in 1999 and 2004. This makes Indesit one of the biggest employers in the city. Bosch-Siemens has been active since 1998 and is currently making 700,000 washing machines and dryers a year with 450 workers - at conditions similar to Indesit: gross hourly wages of 6 Zloty and norms at Western levels. Suppliers like Mecalit, Coko, Wirthwein, Prettl, DSWI, Drahtzug Stein, or E.G.O. have also moved to Lodz. In the reportage, an Indesit manager says: “We have already invested over 100 million Euros in Lodz and we are still investing. We are not going away.” It remains to be seen whether the “strategy” will work out for the corporations as well and whether the local working class will turn out to be not just cheap but also cooperative.
 The reportage has appeared on 17 Oct 2005 in Gazeta Wyborcza, the biggest bourgeois daily in Poland. We have abbreviated the German translation to about half the original length and re-arranged some parts. The full German translation can be found at www.wildcat-www.de.
 The reportage talks of 4.20 Zloty per hour. According to the Nowy Robotnik, gross hourly wages for workers hired through a temporary work agency are slightly above 6 Zloty per hour. The exchange rate is at approximately 4 Zloty to 1 Euro.
 Malgorzata Michalska in Nowy Robotnik Nr. 21 (25), http://nr.freshsite.pl/?nr=25&id=577.
 For example, the textile factory Uniontex still employed 14,000 workers in the 1970s. In 2003, an occupation strike was organised against the final closure of the plant - against the big unions Solidarność and OPZZ. After the end of the strike, a self-managed cooperative with 130 employees was founded in the factory.
 Unemployment data from the Polish statistical office (http://www.stat.gov.pl). Investment data from the site of the Lodz Special Economic Zone (http://www.sse.lodz.pl) and from the Polish press (local news eg. at http://wirtualna.lodz.pl).
 See the article and the interview about the Bosch-Siemens plant in Berlin-Spandau in Wildcat 74 - “The only thing they can expect from us ... (is a kick in the arse!). A washing machine factory closes down.” [translation in this edition of the newsletter]- and also the current conflict at the AEG plant in Nürnberg.
[prol-position news #4, 12/2005] www.prol-position.net. Edited by libcom for accuracy.