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„Property is theft” goes an old anarchist saying. Many average people may not subscribe to this wisdom, especially supporters of the system which rests on private property. Although this is certainly the case in Poland, a „post-communist” country which wanted to privatize just about everything, even the most staunch defenders of privatization have to admit that many, many abuses occured. Public property and industry was swooped up for only a small fraction of its value and, as we can see in the case of housing privatization, has been outright stolen.

All of Poland knows the story. Almost a decade ago, members of our Warsaw union organized with tenants and helped bring the facts to light, about the theft of public housing, with the complicity of a wide network of civil servants, lawyers and judges. 10 years later, almost 2 dozen people have been arrested and some of these houses should be remunicipalized. Only that is not going so smoothly.

Interest in the criminal privatization process began back in 2002-2003 and came through an acquaintance from the loosely-defined alterglobalist movement. Our friend described how his tenement house was privatized by the family of the city President. We wrote 3 articles about this on the anarchist news portal, exposing the situation and the plight of the tenants. Although this story became newsworthy, it was blown over for many years. Now it is one of the most well-known examples of theft and corruption in the history of Poland.

For some years, tenants did not have a loud voice and each such story of corruption and theft of public property either went unheard or appeared somewhere deep inside the papers, only to be forgotten the next day. After forming an organization together with tenants in 2009, we organized many radical actions, occupying the City Council and trying to get our topics on the agenda. In 2010, 36 organizations – mostly comprised of organizations of particular addresses – got together to demand action from the city. Two reports were prepared: one on the bad effects of particular policies and practices on tenants, another on irregularities concerning housing privatization – or „reprivatization” as they prefer to call it.

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As ZSP prepares for its annual Congress, it looks back at victories and challenges it faced in the first half year of 2018.

The Congress, which normally takes place a little earlier in the year, is delayed due to a number of factors, including the pressures of repression for the union activity. The Union continues its campaign to improve working conditions at supermarkets, in particular, the battle with PoloMarket. Again, workers with disabilites have played a huge role in a labour campaign in our organizations, fighting for the rights allowed to them under law, but denied by many workplaces which use such workers to get subsidies and which think they cannot defend their rights. Already a direct action resulted in a worker receiving good compensation and a number of judgements were made against the company, in favor of the workers. But in order to discourage working people, bogus criminal cases have been brought by the chain – there is a case against one individual and 2 cases against 8.

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As it turns out, more and more workers from India are employed in Warsaw, especially in huge firms such as T-Mobile. There it turns out that some workers have been subject to racism and bad attitude of workers who look at people as if they are "stealing jobs". At the same time, shady agencies are sending offers around the country that workers from India and Bangladesh can work for less than the minimum wage.

Although this is not the case with the large employers such as T-mobile or Phillips in Piła, the types of discriminatory behaviour they must encounter from supervisors and sometimes other workers makes work very difficult. Some workers have asked for advice and help and have spoken to management about their concerns.

ZSP supports the organization of this vulnerable workforce and is planning workshops on racism in the workplace.

Workers who would like to contact us in English can write to warszawa@zsp.net.pl

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On May Day, ZSP in Wroclaw went around the city, stopping at different restaurants and services which remained open on the holiday. Its slogans concerned working conditions in this sector and concrete demands to end the practices of trash contracts, which, among other things do not provide workers with paid sick leave. This is an especially different problem in gastronomy, where many people work while they are ill.

A few thousand leaflets and newspapers were distributed and the action attracted a lot of attention and support.

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On April 26 the Warsaw union organized a picket at a shoe shop. The company, which operates in 4 locations in the city, violated the rights of one worker and, as we found out later, this was not an isolated incident. The worker, who took 2 days off for child care, something that is allowed in the labor law, was fired and the boss did not want to pay out the complete salary owed or payment for unused vacation days.

The worker did not want to return to this job but demanded payment for the time worked and the unused vacation. After writing a demand letter, the union called for a series of pickets. After the first, the boss decided to pay what was owed.

Additional compensation is being sought in the court concerning the unfair dismissal.

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In response to the situation at the Polish Post Office, ZSP called for international solidarity actions to be held at Polish Embassies and Consulates. This is a direct response to another dismissal of our union activist, this time in Wroclaw. Earlier 2 people were fired for their roles in organizing protests. The Post Office has also been trying to bring serious but completely fictious criminal charges against another worker, who doesn't even work in the Post Office, but was involved in the organization of the workers' protests.

The support was good from the organizations of the International Workers Association and other friends. There were protests and leafleting in a dozen international cities - Bratislava, Valencia, Madrid, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Belgrade, Cologne, Oslo, Jakarta, Melbourne, Canberra - and of course in Poland. Faxes and emails were also sent from the USA, Austria and Lithuania. (A few photos are here. More are on our social media.)

We thank everybody for the support. We'd like to point out that, due to the large protests last year, some working conditions were improved and everybody got a raise. The Post Office however has been doing everything it can be make sure that the unions are not recognized and people who they perceive as the main organizers are gone, harrassed or neutralized.

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On March 8, taxi drivers protested at the Ministry of Infrastucture against the lax regulations regarding Uber, in comparison with licensed cabs. A comrade from ZSP spoke with the drivers, who understood that Uber drivers also face bad working conditions and spoke of how drivers in Uber organized and how mass protests have worked to drive that company out of some countries or to push the government to introduce regulations. She also pointed out that the Ministry was currently very problematic, how postal workers were being repressed and how the Ministry introduced anti-social amendments to the Act on the Protection of Tenants Rights. Some of the workers will be effected but didn't know about these changes.

The drivers are asking the government to impose restrictions on Uber.

They also pointed out that many immigrants are being cheated by Uber. Unfortunately, a few people tried to turn this into anti-immigrant sentiment, but when people quickly reminded people that they are victims, this sentiment disappeared.

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On March 8, the first trial of the Polo 8 took place in Inowroclaw. They are facing bullshit criminal charges as reprisals for organizing and protesting incorrect working conditions in the supermarket chain.

One of the first things the supermarket lawyer did was enter in as „evidence” information that further protests were planned at Polo Market. The protests were legalized, but the lawyer apparently sees protests as some crime and incitement to workers to „commit criminal acts”.

Decades after workers fought against the repressive system that denied them such basic rights, such as the right to protest, the totalitarian face of the rich and ruling classes has shown itself and its intention to smash and repress workers movements that go against it.

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On February 18, 2017, the first in what would be many protests was held in front of Polomarket in Bydgoszcz. Over the course of the year, the supermarket chain has come under pressure to clean up its act. The firm's response has been repeated attempts to criminalize the protesters.

Unpaid overtime. Falsified signatures on time sheets. Denying workers breaks. Health and safety violations. Workers from different Polomarket supermarkets around Poland have all come with similar claims. When workers and former workers in Bydgoszcz started the campaign one year ago today, the chain immediately claimed it wanted to resolve the problems. Instead, it initiated a criminal case against one of the workers and has been trying to dissuade other protesters with numerous attempts to get people charged with nonsense charges such as blocking the traffic in their parking lot. The repression isn't working and more and more workers are coming out to expose the problems in the market.

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ZSP-lWA calls for a week of protest action against the repression of workers from the Post Office in Poland

February 26 - March 4, 2018

For almost two years, postal workers around Poland have been protesting for better working conditions. ZSP has been active in attempts to coordinate national networks, actions and to unionize workers, together with hundreds of other workers spread around the country. All of the workers shared two things in common: they are fed up with the very poor working conditions and were not satisfied with the role of the representative unions which signed various agreements on their behalf with the employer.

Major actions of the ZSP have included exposing the problems in the Post Office and providing a forum for thousands of workers to network, making contacts all over the country and organizing national meetings, promoting alternative unionism and organizing and taking part in organizing national protests, together with thousands of workers.

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