Poland: Deal between post bosses and unions condemned

An analysis of the deal struck between Polish postal service bosses and unions following the strikes of last month, which saw workers drop many demands.

Submitted by akai on December 18, 2006

On Sunday, December 17 anarchists held a picket in front of the main post office in Warsaw in order to protest against the deal most trade unions made with the bosses and to show solidarity to those who had still not signed the daeal and who were deciding that day whether or not to renew strike action.

In November, as reported previously on libcom.org (1, 2), wildcat strikes broke out in several post offices in Poland. These were transformed into regular strikes, with union negotiations. The postal workers’ demanded wage increases of about 175 euro a month, an 8-hour working day and overtime payments. Letter carriers also demanded lighter loads, without junk mail advertisement.

Several unions signed an unfavourable deal on behalf of the workers, calling it a “victory for both sides”. In manipulative press information, the unions and bosses decided to focus not on the monthly raise agreed, which averages about 25 euro a month gross, but on the “yearly bonus” of 600 zloty (gross) – about 150 euro. What we then found out was that the bonus is a sham; in reality, instead of getting a new bonus, the post office is giving the workers cash instead of supermarket coupons worth the same value that they had been getting as Christmas bonuses. In reality, they’ll get even less because the cash will be taxed at a different rate.

What about the other demands? In reality, everything looks like the bosses put themselves in a great position to force even more overtime and to soon start mass layoffs.

Among the worst parts of the deal is the part about junk mail. Now, instead of giving it to regular mail carriers to deliver as part of the mail, it will either be contracted out to private firms or given to mail carriers to be delivered on a contractual basis. Unfortunately, junk mail constitutes a substantial part of the income of the post office. What do people think - that using the same income base, the post office is actually going to free the mail carriers from a significant part of their load and hire out even more workers and incurr even more costs? We’re afraid that the following is the most likely scenario:

-that part of the mail carrier’s work will be hired out to those who deliver leaflets now, who don’t get any benefits and who don’t have regulated work hours
-that due to the smaller delivery loads, the post office will lay off some mail carriers (the unions made no agreements about employment levels)
-that laid-off mail carriers will be offered contracts as junk mail leaflet carriers, with no benefits
-that some mail carriers will take some small contracts to deliver junk mail as a way of supplementing their incomes as overtime work, only on much worse conditions than regular overtime
-that when the private post offices start competing in all areas, layoffs will occur (the government was scheduled to remove all bans to competition in 2007 but they have applied for a two-year delay)
-that totally outrageous and unrealistic “work norms” that the unions signed will be used as a legal pretext to fire people

What the bosses’ unions are calling a victory, actually is just a tiny pay rise, about 15% of what the workers wanted, and a more precarious situation. The bosses of the post office includes 150 useless managers with fat salaries hired through political cronyism just before the new government came into power and the old director, set in position by the ruling party creating second directors for postal administrative units. The bosses waste money right and left and are building a new expensive HQ for their bureaucrats. The white collar workers at HQ get much higher bonuses. The bosses gave up nothing, none of the fake manager positions were liquidated, and the post just keeps upping the price spent on their new HQ.

People from the Anarchist Federation Praga and International Workers’ Solidarity picketed at the main post office in Warsaw with the slogan “Directors of Polish Post to work for 1000 złoties”. The protest was an attempt to highlight the relationship between workers and management, to show solidarity and present a critical view of the unions’ deals.

As one anarchist commented, "the struggle continues"...