Socialist Worker

Polish nurses and miners: Voices of struggle

The last few months has seen a surge in workers’ struggle in Poland, involving many different sections. Two participants spoke to Socialist Worker.

Issue No. 2087

Miners in Budryk struck and occupied their pits for 46 days

Miners in Budryk struck and occupied their pits for 46 days

Miner Krzysztof Labadz

‘At midnight on Thursday of last week we finished our strike and occupation of the Budryk mine. This lasted 46 days, with 25 days of underground occupation.

Our mine is the most productive per head in the whole industry. We have just been taken over by the JSW company. We are the second most profitable out of its six mines but have the lowest wages. That is what our strike was about.

We did not get all that we wanted but won a 10 percent wage rise and a lump sum payment. A special commission that the unions are part of has been set up to achieve parity.

Recently the government gave in to wage demands by miners working in two big companies – including JSW. This company is owned by the treasury, which is why its bosses are political. I think the government was using our mine as a testing ground to see how determined we are. We showed them we were.

The big unions belonging to the Solidarnosc and OPZZ federations were against our action. But we were so determined that we fought anyway.

We held regular meetings both on the surface and underground, sometimes two or three times a day. Morale was kept up by us receiving lots of support from Poland and across Europe.

Some 2,400 miners work in Budryk. Of this 700 took an active part in the occupation, while most of the others supported.

The bosses tried to turn wives and families against us. But we organised meetings for them outside the gates every evening to keep them informed. They passed on their love and solidarity to the occupiers inside.

This was very important for us. The wives even organised themselves to picket the deputy prime minister’s ministry in Warsaw.’

Krzysztof Labadz is chair of August 80 union in the Budryk coal mine in Ornontowice, Silesia

Nurse Longina Kaczmarska

‘Hundreds of health workers set up a tent city outside the prime minister’s office last summer over pay.

It did not give us what we wanted. But it did serve to make us become better organised. I was with three other union leaders occupying the office for eight days.

They cut us off from the outside world and tried to intimidate us. In the end the prime minister had to talk to us.

We got widespread support from other trade unionists. I support the current teachers’ protest.

My husband is a teacher who also has another job because the pay is so low. This year the doctors have been getting pay rises. They demanded that an EU directive on setting a limit to working hours and paying overtime be honoured. We want the same. We are also demanding that expenditure on health is increased.

Our members are taking various forms of action depending on the hospital they work in.

Some are striking for two hours one day and then adding an hour to the strike time each day.

Others are taking sick days off to disrupt the shift system. The government’s attitude is that the hospital is a firm – the debts of hospitals are the problem of hospital workers and patients.

If the hospitals don’t get more money it will lead to more privatisation.’

Longina Kaczmarska is vice chair All Polish Trade Union of Nurses and Midwives

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.