Pracujesz na umowie śmieciowej? Możemy pomóc!

Enough misery! Enough servitude!

On September 22, the ZSP Warsaw general trades union took part in a demonstration called „Poland Needs Higher Wages”. Besides calling for a general increase in salaries, it reminded people of the ongoing and unfulfilled demands of Postal and Health Care workers in our union, stressing that only the consistent, self-organized actions of the workers outside the mainstream unions brought any gains in this area. Over the last 2 years, wages in the Post Office have been raised, but only to 40% of what the workers demanded. Only more decisive action can lead to victory, but the management and positions of other unions have hindered the struggle.

The union also reminded workers of other problems related to the general income of workers and living standards. It reiterated its call to fight outsourcing in the public sector and the use of various types of employment which deny workers basic entitlement such as paid vacation, which in effect, decreases the total value of their compensation.

The demonstration also called for pension reform, demanding the right to retire after 35 years worked and the reinstatement of several types of early retirement for certain unsafe and unhealthy professions. This right has been eliminated in recent years.

ZSP considers the whole pension system to be a critical disaster which will seriously impact many of those workers who started their careers after the economic transition (in 1989). This means that in the next 10-20 years, we will start to see a rapid increase in poverty amongst senior citizens. Already many of them simply cannot afford to retire. As the gurus of the turbocapitalist economy can only recommend that people put aside more money for their future, we point out that an increasing amount of people live with crippling debt or cannot even make ends meet. Simply put, with wages on the level that they are, most workers simply have nothing they can save.

ZSP is especially supportive of those sectors of the economy which are underpaid and call on workers to organize themselves and on the public to demand more money to the budget sector. We point out the dire situation in public health care or the Post Office, where there are extreme shortages of workers. Instead of receiving more adequate funds, the government only exploits more and more prison labor and relies on increased immigration from some of the worlds' poorest countries, to keep wages as low as possible.

We welcomed the site of the handful of Ukrainian workers who joined the demonstration and remind our fellow workers from other lands that it is also time to get more organized. We know from experience that many foreigners, who are dependent on the whims of their employers to keep their work permits are afraid to fight back, but we have managed before on various ocassions.

The demo was mostly attended by mainstream unions but also some rank and file came, as well as a few left political groups. A few rank and file workers from LOT Polish airlines came. ZSP has supported their struggle several times. Most recently, workers wanted to strike but there were legal problems endemic to the constrictive laws concerning disputes, unions and the right to strike. Unfortunately, the airline and the legal system came down hard and unionists were dismissed, as well as some workers who wanted to take action. For us this shows once again that there is no solution in legal unionism, as it confines itself to the laws which are stacked against the workers. We support the workers and their efforts to protest outside the unions and call on more of them to organize and take decisive action.

Our main slogans were „We want raises” and „Strike is our best weapon”. Behind us also marched a group of veterinary inspectors - a group which is highly discriminated against and also is made up of mostly women, facts that are undoubtedly connected – and more workers from the Post Office. In the latter case, unfortunately there was one of the mainstream unions there which is known for including a lot of bosses, even ones that were acting against the workers' protests from last year. So it turned out that some postal workers marching with us had their bosses marching in the mainstream union and the fact that those people were there undoubtedly kept a lot of other workers away. This is especially objectionable given the role of the bosses and the mainstream unions in threatening and repressing workers during these protests. Our response was just to go up to them and confront them with reality, inviting workers to get rid of their union bureaucrats and organize directly.

Despite the fact that the minimum wage is raised slightly every year in Poland and the „average” wage is rising, we note that the median wage is still extremely low and among the lowest in Europe. Given the constant increase in the real cost of living, many working people still struggle to make ends meet. Most often, poverty is defined by statisticians as „living on less than $4 a day”, a level which is ridiculous and clearly designed to make this country look better in certain statistics. If we are going to see a substantial increase in our standard of living, we have got to get more organized and take more decisive action.

No more compromises!