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(en) Slovakia, priama akcia: How we dealt with the problems at work: Disputes of Direct Action 2015-2019 part I. (1/4) [machine translation]

Date Wed, 6 May 2020 07:25:45 +0300

In the years 2015-2019, the Association of Direct Action participated in five disputes. All but one turned out in favor of the workers. The key was that they had them under their control at all times and followed direct action tactics. In practice, we have shown that our principles work and bring results. We are pleased to be able to share these historically first successful anarcho-syndicalist activities in Slovakia, and we hope that they will be an inspiration to others. The brochure was published at the end of February and today we make it available for free download in DOC , PDF , MOBI and EPUB formats . ---- How we dealt with problems at work ---- Disputes of the Association Direct Action in the years 2015-2019


Dispute over unpaid remuneration with the civic association Wild Poppies
Dispute over unpaid wages with CATO Agency
Three fights in restaurant services, many important lessons
General recommendations


About ten years ago, we asked ourselves where we would like to be an organization in the near future. At the time, we were a small group whose main goal was to promote anarcho-syndicalist ideas. We did not call ourselves a union, and even with that anarcho-syndicalism it was not so easy. We were worried that we would scare people away.

Today, as we write these lines, we cannot imagine a better name. In this introduction, we will try to explain as briefly as possible how a small organization promoting anarcho-syndicalism changed into an anarcho-syndicalist union (albeit still small).

The change was slow, gradual and based on practical experience rather than theoretical considerations.

From the random activities of the promotional group
to the systematic activities of the workers' union

Let's start a little broadly. The direct event was established in 2000 and in the same year became a member section of the International Workers' Association (MAP). From the beginning, therefore, we joined the anarchist current in the workers' movement. In the first years of our existence, we focused mainly on expressing solidarity with the struggles of workers in Slovakia and organizing solidarity events with workers abroad. In addition, we published reports and published publications on work-related topics.

We have always considered ourselves part of the working class and not some intellectual vanguard that is detached from it. Although in the first years the organization was mostly (working) students, we were still looking for ways to prioritize activities in the workplace.

We gained our first experience with the confrontation of superiors on student brigades. Later, the solution of problems in the workplaces, which affected our members, but also people outside the organization, was added. And although we did not proceed systematically, we gained a lot of experience and through practice we clarified our further direction.

Probably the biggest obstacle was the fact that we lacked a concept and without a strategy we could only rely on random events. So we changed things that didn't work, agreed on clear principles and goals, and launched the first campaign on workers' issues. We focused on what we already had experience with - student brigades. The campaign was called Are you going to work? and although it did not turn out as expected, it became the forerunner of a much more successful campaign called Problems at Work? .

This is how we got to the first disputes with the bosses, in which we have already acted publicly as a union (and not just as individuals). So far, they have not been about founding their own unions in the workplace or about major changes with a societal impact (but we believe that in time it will come), but "only" about supporting workers when they were out of the workplace. This brochure is an attempt to summarize them.

Dispute over unpaid remuneration
with the civic association Divé maky

The first dispute we ran collectively as a union was literally the baptism of fire. Of all the previous ones, it was the longest, most demanding and we organized the most protest activities during it. We have experienced threats and criminal reports. However, it brought us valuable experience in further disputes, and mainly we won in it thanks to perseverance and tactics of direct actions.


The civic association Divé maky (hereinafter OZ DM) helps talented Roma children. It is funded by grants and donations from state institutions, companies and individuals. Michal worked in OZ DM as a self-employed person, although in fact he performed the work of a regular employee. After more than a year, he decided to find something else because he was no longer satisfied with the conditions in the organization.

He agreed with the administrator of OZ DM to leave on 31 July 2015. At the end of July, he received a document entitled Agreement on the termination of the contract with her signature and confirmation that the parties have no outstanding pecuniary or other claims against each other and will not make such claims. in the future. The only exception was the payment of remuneration to Michal for the last month worked in the amount of € 950.

However, the reward for July did not apply, although Michal asked for it in writing several times in August and September. Instead, the administrator began to blame him for the allegedly unfulfilled work tasks and to ask for various written explanations, despite the fact that she had signed the Agreement two months earlier. At the same time, Michal volunteered to help with several things after leaving, but OZ DM did not provide him with the necessary documents, even though he asked for them in writing.

So it was obvious that the caretaker was taking the time because she didn't really want to pay him. Michal refused to accept that he would not see the money again, and contacted our union.

Although we reject racism and we like the specific help for Roma children, we could not tolerate not paying money for the work that helps these children and for which Michal was entitled to a contractual remuneration.


Meeting with a worker

Michal knew that we only get involved in disputes if the employee himself is involved in solving the problem. He took this condition seriously and was very active and responsible throughout the preparation and duration of the dispute.

At the meeting, he clarified all the facts and connections. A discussion ensued on whether we could succeed in this dispute. Her result was clear - we decided to support Michal. Together with him, we prepared a letter of request and planned its delivery, as well as a rough outline of possible steps in case the money is not paid.

In the letter, we defined the problem, called for payment of the amount due within 14 days, and made it clear that otherwise we would be forced to take further action.

Submission of a letter of request and deadline

We wanted to hand over the letter of request directly to the administrator. However, we knew that he does not go to the office every day. So we came up with a trick. We contacted OZ DM pretending to be an enthusiastic potential donor and we arranged a personal meeting on a specific day and hour. This is how we ensured the presence of the administrator at work and went to visit.

In a group of supporters, Michal rang the bell in front of the company's headquarters on October 28. She was opened by a worker who told him that we had come to see the caretaker. He briefly explained the reason for the visit, handed over the letter, reminded him of the deadline for paying off the debt, and then we left.

Open dispute and first actions
(and reactions)

We used the next two weeks to elaborate the strategy in more detail. In case of non-compliance, we needed to be clear about what our steps will be in the coming weeks, what their sequence will be, how we will divide the individual tasks, etc.

After the expiration of the 14-day period, we published information on the website that we are entering into a dispute in order to obtain the payment of unlawfully withheld remuneration. The trustee responded by giving a power of attorney in the dispute to a lawyer, who began to intimidate us with a lawsuit for disclosing information about the dispute.

This step rather amused us and had no effect on the prepared action plan. Legal wording and action threats are commonly used to intimidate workers. And they often work because people who don't know much about the law stop fighting for their demands, even if they're justified. However, Michal did not belong to this group.

We continued with the publication of a sample e-mail, which people could send to OZ DM, and thus express their opinion on the conduct of the organization:

I join the protest against the actions of the administrator of OZ Divé maka, Barbora Kohútiková, who refuses to pay the contractually agreed and self-signed indemnity in the amount of € 950 to former employee Michal R. I consider the administrator to be directly responsible for resolving the situation. If the reward is not paid, I will inform as many people as possible about this case.

OZ Divé maky, is it worth gambling with the reputation of your organization and the fates of the children you support? Settle this dispute as soon as possible by paying for the work of a former employee who contributed to your goals. Carrying out a charitable activity does not give you the right to take the position that you can do whatever you want with your contractual obligations.

I express my support for Michal R. and the campaign aimed at paying the outstanding remuneration.

We also translated this pattern into English and OZ DM finally received almost 150 protest e-mails (plus several faxes) mainly from Slovakia, but also from 17 other countries (Brazil, Britain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Croatia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Austria, Russia, Spain, Sweden, USA), ten of which were member associations of the International Workers' Association (MAP).

Information about the dispute has spread to other websites and Facebook. People from the music scene also expressed support: Oi Oi Piratoi, PKOTG, Rozpor, Železná kolóna and probably others, about whom we did not have the opportunity to learn. This simple and time-saving form of support was an important part of the campaign. For almost two weeks, OZ DM received several protest e-mails a day. We knew the email campaign was causing concern. It turned out that in the end it was one of the reasons for the payment of the amount owed. But let's not overtake.

Criminal reports from the administrator of OZ DM

The first attempt at a criminal report came right after our visit to the headquarters of OZ DM. The administrator spoke of threats and extortion, but it was enough to verify the relevant provisions of the law and it was clear that these allegations were ridiculous. Michal had no problem going to the police and giving an explanation. The first criminal report was quickly reclassified as a misdemeanor, and in the end there was nothing from the misdemeanor proceedings.

Nicholas and the Devil sound

The article was published and the e-mail campaign was launched on 6 December. Although Mikuláš and Cert had a lot of work to do, they also found time for a reward for OZ DM. They left coal and a verse at the door of the mansion, in which they expressed their position. "It's outrageous! How can a charity afford not to pay the contractually agreed remuneration, and what values do children learn in this way? "Both commented. The verse read as follows:

Nicholas has teamed up with the devil,
your debt will not be left alone.
Shame on you, Wild Poppies,
for your tricks and bluffs.

Wild poppies - what are you?
Why have a contract with you?
The importance of charity is lost
where you do not pay for your work.

It'll be worse, Wild Poppies, it's
not worth the money.
Those who do not value work will
only burden themselves.

Nicholas teamed up with the devil
to speak to your soul for the children.
If you still have one, you will
wrongly appropriate € 950 into the account.

Attempt for out-of-court settlement by OZ DM

In mid-December, the administrator's lawyer issued "the last attempt at an out-of-court settlement". We expected to find at least a specific proposal in his e-mail, but instead he was full of bullshit about the democratic principles of the state, legal instruments for solving problems and dissatisfaction with the anonymity of people's faces in the published photos ... Thor's hammer hit: Michal was supposed to cause OZ DM damage for more than € 3,000 (as usual, everything was allegedly documented). At the end of the e-mail, the lawyer further emphasized that the organization has a mission to help others, and that is why it is still willing to settle the whole problem out of court.

We were more or less amused (certainly more than less), although the idea of hanging out with someone who could come up with such pofider accusations after almost half a year was not tempting.

What, we said to ourselves. We discussed all the allegations with Michal to see if he could refute each one. He knew. Then we started writing a response to the lawyer. In three days, you could read the list of actual violations of the law by OZ DM with the relevant paragraphs. Our answer obviously surprised him, because he did not respond to our e-mail.

What violated OZ DM? Criminal law, Commercial law and the Labor Code. And he was well aware of this, as some of the violations had already been brought to their attention in November by the MAP secretariat, which had been actively involved in the development of the situation from the outset.

We ask for the opinion of OZ DM partners (and the reaction of OZ DM)

We were counting on the stubborn attitude of OZ DM, so we took the next planned step: we started addressing OZ DM's partners. Since the beginning of December, we have gradually informed people about the association's practices, who directly or indirectly (often financially) supported its activities, while OZ DM was always included in the copy of the e-mail.

The reaction of OZ DM was unique. It was clear that the association was in a lot of pain. Threats against Michal suddenly appeared on the Internet. The more comical part was that the administrator's lawyer officially praised himself on the discussion forum on our website that OZ DM did not illegally pay the outstanding remuneration ( "But since you got involved in the dispute with Michal ... we would like to inform you and the public about the reasons why Wild Poppies refuses to pay him the aforementioned reward for July 2015. " ). He had no problem deceiving when he wrote that OZ DM has the full support of the partners ( "Your activities in the form / Direct action / have the opposite effect, as you probably imagined, because all foundations addressed by you and donors express our full support ..."). And at the same time as the contributions he signed, there were also almost identical articles in content and stylistically identical to the absurd accusations of racism, insults addressed to Michal and his family, or threats of violence.

We choose only the largest pearls:

"Does your mother not yet know what you are creating?" (The article was followed by the name and address of Michal's mother's permanent residence)

"Do you want that dolmat too??? hmmmm "

"Poor and primitive worthy of the poor"

"... are you so stupid??? and you're also a racist "

The trustee's lawyer also did not hesitate to use the e-mail addresses of the people who expressed support for further attacks against Michal. However, we explained everything to the supporters and the OZ DM in the end, and in the end only harmed them.

Informing the public about the association's practices
in the Christmas markets

Part of our strategy was also the confrontation of OZ DM in public. We considered it important to show the dual face of the association and to inform about its practices.

During the Christmas markets on December 18, OZ DM organized a cultural event on Hviezdoslav Square in Bratislava, where young Roma talents performed. We also came and distributed several dozen leaflets on the spot, explaining other than the charitable side of OZ DM's activities - illegal non-payment of outstanding remuneration:

Do you like the activities of the civic association Wild Poppies?

To us too. Unfortunately, not all. You may not know this yet: For five months now, wild poppies have been refusing to pay a former employee a salary of € 950 for the month of July 2015, to which they have contractually committed, and in addition they publicly admit it.

What is it about?

It also seems incredible to us that the civic association Divé maky, which has such a noble goal as supporting young Roma talents, could be preserved in this way. The following happened: Former administrative worker Mgr. Michal R. (by the way, "employed" not classically, but for a trade) left the Wild Poppies and in August 2015 he was waiting for the last reward to be paid. The money did not go, so he first demanded it himself, and after several unsuccessful attempts together with the solidarity union Direct Action. However, despite the submitted documents confirming Michal's claim, the civic association did not pay the money. As a result, the union entered into a dispute over the payment of the outstanding remuneration.

For more than a month now, however, we have witnessed Wild Poppies ignoring dozens of e-mails not only from Slovakia, but also from other countries in which Michal's supporters demand payment of the outstanding remuneration. Even worse, the Wild Poppies prefer to take the path of misleading the public about Michal's problem and threatening the police and the courts just for asking Michal what he deserves under the contract.

It is sad that in the run-up to Christmas, when everyone would like to enjoy a peaceful and generous holiday, we have to struggle with indifference and arrogance. We ask the question, what values does the civic association Divé maky teach young people through its actions?

What's next, Wild Poppies?

We are sorry that we have to address you as a result of the situation, and we are also sorry that Wild Poppies are bringing not only themselves but also talented children into their unenviable situation, to whom they are providing financial support. However, we are convinced that work is paid for, and if not, it should always be pointed out.

The Solidarity Workers' Union The direct action will support Michal until he receives a reward.

The longer the civic association Divé maky closes its eyes to our legitimate request, the more people will learn about their illegal actions. Keep your fingers crossed for us to keep it as short as possible. If you don't even like what's going on, contact Wild Poppies. You can find our opinion on the website www.priamaakcia.sk, or if you have further questions, we will be happy to answer them and explain your ambiguities.

An attempt to meet the MAP secretariat with OZ DM

As we mentioned, in November the MAP secretariat contacted OZ DM by e-mail and pointed out the strange practices of the association. At the end of December, members of the secretariat tried a personal meeting with the administrator. However, they did not find anyone in the office after the holidays, so they left their message in the mailbox and on the door. They also commented on the dispute in an interview in which they described well what had actually happened:

"We think it's terrible that someone has to experience something like that. In addition, the organization seeks to defend its apparently unethical practices by using even worse practices, such as threatening, making nonsense allegations to the police that people are peacefully defending a worker, and writing letters to his supporters blaming him. They are trying to justify something that is unjustifiable - not paying € 950. "

Association of Desperate Lawyers

In mid-January, Michal was contacted by a member of the Board of Directors, who was also a lawyer of OZ DM (and not a lawyer of the administrator). He indicated a willingness to pay off the money owed, but conditioned it with a personal meeting with Michal between the eyes. The day after that he was surprised and dissatisfied when a member of our union, who pretended to be Michal's friend, also showed up, but he realized quite quickly that he could not choose.

The tactics he unpacked for Michal were fascinating. He first admitted that our actions cause OZ DM huge problems, so we must stop them immediately. But then he jumped into intimidation mode again. His attempt to agree consisted of a "generous" offer to pay Michal half the money he owed and a perverted expression of "goodwill" consisting in not being sued for embezzlement and mismanagement in the organization. Michal denied these desperate false accusations a long time ago, and we also informed all supporters about them. Although the lawyer came up with new "findings", they were just as weak. Michal refuted several of them at the meeting itself, even without having to look at his documentation.

The meeting with the lawyer was not pleasant at all, but Michal quickly shook it off. We discussed the whole matter together and came to the only meaningful conclusion - Michal could not accept the offer, because it was in conflict with his request and the obligation arising from the Agreement on the termination of the contract. On the second day, OZ DM bequeathed that as an expression of our goodwill, we have been suspending all our activities for five days from the moment we contacted the lawyer (January 13). We added that if OZ DM does not pay the amount due in full by January 18, we will be forced to escalate the dispute.

The next phase of the campaign and payment of the amount owed

As expected, OZ DM did not pay the money in the given term. And so, on January 20, we informed about the practices of the association of the last of the list of partners of the organization, thus ending the first phase of contact. The second phase was to follow, which would affect OZ DM even more, but on the afternoon of January 21, Michal's lawyer and the administrator of OZ DM wrote to Michal that the money had been paid out. He received them on account on January 22, 2016, less than three months after he applied for them together with our association.

We have acknowledged receipt of the amount due and termination of the dispute over unpaid remuneration. At the same time, we pointed out that if we register from OZ DM the effort not to comply with the entire Agreement on the termination of the contract, we are ready to enter into a new dispute immediately and take all necessary public, media and legal steps.


After the end of the dispute, we were interested in what impressions Michal actually had from him, what he experienced and what the dispute left in him. The result was this short interview:

What did this dispute teach you and what did it bring to life?

He gave me a lot. He confirmed what I believed in, and therefore, that collective action against bosses is successful when it is conducted responsibly and sensibly. I'm glad we did it. I do not think that without the involvement of PA, resp. I would get the money for a similar campaign and not in full at all. This dispute showed me this very simply and directly. He taught me that it is always better to deal with such activities collectively than alone. "

What was most important to you in the dispute?

I am very positive about the support from MAP, which has been involved not only in the form of sending e-mails and faxes. The members of the secretariat personally visited the office of OZ Divé maky, even though they did not find anyone there in the end. I think that by offering me financial support, they left the impression of OZ Divé maky that this is a serious matter. This support also calmed me and gave me the confidence to persevere.

One of the most important things in this dispute was the support in the form of sending protest e-mails, which they really weighed on. I would like to thank everyone who joined the campaign, whether by sending emails, expressing support or active help. I really appreciate this support and it really helped during the dispute.

What would you do to someone with a similar problem?

You definitely need to be calm and not let yourself be broken by the bosses. Even if it's someone you know longer and wants to play on your feelings. Do not give up, do not respond to their suggestions and mint your own. Don't be afraid of accusation or intimidation, because the collective will hold you back.

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