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(en) Slovakia, priama akcia: How we dealt with the problems at work: Disputes of Direct Action 2015-2019 part III. (3/4) [machine translation]

Date Fri, 8 May 2020 08:58:20 +0300


MARTIN'S VIEW OF THE DISPUTE ---- During one of the debates, Martin reminded us that our union has known for some time and was even at one of our presentations. So we didn't have to explain to him how we work, but we asked him to read all about the dispute with OZ DM so he could have an idea of what might await him. As it turned out, he eventually found himself in similar situations as Michal, and he also withstood them well. He also talked to Michal in person at one of the meetings. ---- Even after this dispute, we were curious how the worker himself perceived him. We therefore sent Martin the same questions as before to Michal. ---- What did this dispute teach you and what did it bring to life? ---- He convinced me of the power of direct action as a form of struggle. In my case, it was for the payment of wages, but I think I can generalize and say that similar forms of coercion can solve various social problems. I can't imagine that without Direct Action in the dispute I would have succeeded so quickly, resp. succeeded at all. The controversy has also helped me learn to handle various situations without nerves, yet I have never encountered anything like this.

What was most important to you in the dispute?

It was people's support. I knew I wasn't alone in that. When we handed over a letter in Košice requesting payment of my salary, I did not expect that there would be so many willing people who would support me selflessly. I also felt the support of friends, acquaintances, but it was more or less just moral.

What would you do to someone with a similar problem?

I would advise anyone who has a similar problem not to be afraid. I realize that sometimes it is easier to overlook injustice, even if it is directed at you personally. I know that people are generally afraid to stand up to those in a superior position in a stronger position. I myself have long decided whether it is worthwhile to go into an open dispute, but the support I felt throughout the dispute and the successful outcome convinced me that I had made the right decision.

WHAT HAS DISPUTED THE DISPUTE AND LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE

Each of our disputes is different. Although we use the same tactics (direct actions), we must always take into account completely different circumstances and come up with a strategy that will ensure that the requirements of the workers are met as quickly as possible.

Gathering experience in other fights

From the beginning, we assumed that we would be better off after any dispute, because we would be able to benefit from previous experiences. In this case, we managed to fill it to the point. We were able to provide moral support to Martin in tighter situations and to explain our suggestions well in situations that were almost the same as in the past. We emphasized the importance of not getting involved in pointless debates, not giving in, focusing on the facts, not explaining unnecessarily and "going your own way".

We believe that if we want to make a difference in society, people need to organize. In organizations, we gather experience from our own and other struggles. If our work is systematic, it better prepares us for critical social situations, but also for solving the everyday problems of members and other people who ask for help. The ability to solve these problems is then a signal to other workers that they are not alone and together we can do something. When we initially asked Martin why he turned to us, his answer confirmed what we had just written - he thought that our experience would allow us to advise him. In the end, we were able not only to advise him, but also to help solve the whole problem.

Dispute coordination in a city without a local group

This dispute has been a great challenge for us. We had to consider whether we dare to do it, because its cause was in Košice, which is 400 km from our Bratislava local group. Although we had members in the region (so-called isolated members who are a full part of the union, but there are not enough of them to form a local group), it is different to be in charge of a dispute when a person is alone in the city, and others, when he is in a group. We made sure that if we helped each other and shared responsibilities, we could handle the dispute.

Activists from Košice also helped us a lot. They took part in organizing and carrying out two important direct actions (handing over a letter and protesting in front of the hotel) and played a key role in the whole dispute. Overall, there was a good response from the east of Slovakia also in terms of the number of protest e-mails sent.

Unpredictable events

We were not surprised by the fact that Martin's data for calculating the amount owed were not completely accurate, so we had to correct it. A similar thing happened to us later in another (winning) dispute in the restaurant sector. The reasons were the same in both cases: chaotic accounting, late payroll and the reluctance of companies to communicate before entering into a dispute. Thus, ambiguities that could have been avoided could only be resolved when companies understood that we were serious. This experience has tested our ability to respond to unforeseen situations, to resolve them appropriately and to succeed in disputes despite them.

We handled the other three disputes differently than the dispute with OZ DM and CATO Agency, because they concern one branch - restaurant services. While in the first two disputes we tried to capture in detail the chronology and anatomy of the disputes, we notice the following struggles in the context of the industry and its specifics.

Three fights in restaurant services

In the years 2017 to 2019, we had three disputes in the gastro. They concerned a pizzeria, a café and a bistro. We succeeded in two within a few weeks, the third was terminated prematurely by a worker. Although there are only three disputes, we think that they can be meaningfully compared and evaluated. We have added a few tips to our analysis that could be useful (not only) for people working in restaurant services.

CAUSE OF DISPUTES

We have informed about the causes of individual disputes in separate articles on our website, so we will only briefly summarize them.

* Martin worked in Lozano Pub as a pizzeria and the company refused to reimburse him € 201 for an exhausted vacation after leaving.

* Mia served Space Mania in a café (so-called playful café intended for children and adults) and the owner owed her € 222.44 for the hours worked.

* Jakub worked as an assistant chef in the bistro and the boss did not pay him a salary and wage compensation in the amount of € 584.61.

FIRST STEPS OF WORKERS

Martin and Jakub first tried to solve the problem individually. Martin encountered a reaction we might call the tactic of repeated promises . When he asked for the money he owed, he kept listening to get it, but nothing happened. Although this tactic often causes a person to lose interest in solving the problem, Martin did not give up (even after a response from the labor inspectorate that he would not deal with the matter and should solve it in court) and contacted us.

Jakub also communicated with the boss all the time and reacted to her intention to release him by trying to agree on better conditions. Her answer was much harsher than in Martin's case. We would call it simply revenge (although to label it as the ego in question would also not be far from the truth). She threatened to give him fewer changes, and she did. It got to the point where she refused to pay him any money she owed.

In Miina's case, the situation was more complicated. When she came after the last paycheck, the boss only gave her some money (€ 70) in 20 days worked, claiming that it was worth it in 40 hours worked, refusing to show her an attendance card. Mia was given a "choice": either she signs a copy of the payslip or her boss doesn't even give the € 70. So Mia signed and immediately contacted her friend Maja, whom she confided in everything. They tried to contact the boss by phone, via SMS and later by e-mail, but without a reaction. The boss 's dead beetle tacticshowever, even in this case, it did not lead to the resignation of the worker. On the contrary, Mia reacted admirably. Together with Maya and sometimes other sympathetic people, they started protesting with banners in front of the café several times a week. The boss pulled the victim's tactics from the arsenal: she called the police every time, explaining that Mia had stolen from them, that the children in the cafe were afraid, or that the protests were disturbing public order. After several weeks of unsuccessful actions, Mia and Maja contacted us for help.

ASSOCIATION
OF THE ASSOCIATION DIRECT ACTION AND SETTING OF REQUIREMENTS

We have taken the same first step in these disputes as before. We studied all available documents and, where necessary, recalculated how much the boss actually owed. The purpose of this procedure is to determine the exact amount that will be included in the requirements at a later stage.

Martin's case was relatively clear. The amount owed was based on information from the company's accountant.

Mia was supposed to mark fewer hours at the direction of her boss than she actually worked, but fortunately she also kept her own records. She also took a picture of the actual attendance book, thanks to which we finally calculated the exact amount owed.

The calculation was the most complicated in Jakub's case, because the boss paid part of the salary illegally, the payslips were one big mess, the employment contract did not contain mandatory requirements, such as working hours, and the boss stopped giving him changes. In the end, however, we still managed to write a precise request.

It should be added that Martin and Jakub also marked and photographed the hours worked. They also put away payslips and had important SMS or other messages at their disposal. Such documentation will greatly facilitate the preparation of the dispute, as we can more easily formulate requirements and exert more effective pressure, but we do not claim that if it is missing, everything is lost. We just want to emphasize how important it is to keep records of everything that happens in the workplace (and it may not only be related to money, but also to working conditions, safety and health at work, etc.)

SUBMISSION OF REQUIREMENTS

Submitting a letter is an action by which we show the company that the workers have a problem that needs to be solved and that our union is behind them. There is always a deadline in the letter by which the problem should be solved. If the company does not comply with it, we enter into an open dispute. When handing over the letters in the mentioned establishments, the responsible persons took completely different positions.

The head of Lozano Pub acted seemingly masterfully. He quickly began to test whether he could separate Martin from the rest of us (he talked him into sitting at the table with us without talking to each other). Fortunately, thanks to our presence, Martin did not let himself be broken.

In the case of Space Mania, we found our boss (who sometimes works in the cafe) in front of the entrance to the cafe. He adhered to the dead beetle's wife's tactics, pretended not to be affected at all, and refused to accept the letter. When asked if we should leave the letter on the ground in front of Space Manie's door, he seemingly phlegmatically indicated that he was calm. After we left, he had to bend over and hand him over to his wife. She suddenly came to life, stopped ignoring Mia and wrote her an SMS in which she mentioned the possibility of "agreeing". Instead of a specific agreement, however, she really only wanted Mia to meet with four (!) Space Manie lawyers, to whom she threw the whole matter in order to get rid of the responsibility for solving the problem.

We couldn't even find Jakub's boss in person, but we exchanged at least a few e-mails. Since she was the only one to pay the money on time, we did not finally get into an open dispute.

PRESSURE INCREASE

We started classically - with media coverage. We have published basic information about the company's actions with a call to solidarity with workers on the website. People could call the company, write their opinion by e-mail or add a few words to the evaluation portals.

The second step was concrete coercive actions.

At the time we entered into the disputes, third-party activities (stand-up shows and events for children) were to take place in Lozano Pub and Space Mania. We took this opportunity to inform them of the dispute. We explained that they could help end it quickly and avoid problems if they cooperated with the company during the dispute.

In the case of the owner of Lozano Pub, the reaction was quick. Why did he choose the Facebook page of the Czech Anarchist Federation, where he wrote the following about the shared article on the dispute:

"It simply came to our notice then. The former employee Martin did not contact me even once in the last year until he visited me last week with a restaurant with a party in the picture. Who surrounded my table during lunch, which I think is absolutely rude and rude. And their audacity was so great that as lunch I began to film me with a camera. When I suggested to Martin to stay there that I would investigate what was on my mind, so one of the brazen and rude people told him that you were not coming with us. If you think that this brazen arrogant behavior applies to me, then you are mistaken that it may apply to Japanese whaling fishing boats. A former employee knows my number, where he can find me, and he can talk to me about his problem, and if I find out that our company owes him something, I will see to it that it is resolved. And I'll give you one piece of advice

We responded to this:

"During 2017, Martin informed Lozano Pub several times that his holiday had not been paid for. We have SMS communication with repeated promises that the money will be paid. So far this has not happened.

On 30.10. you have been re-informed of the problem through a written request for payment of the debt. Two weeks have passed since then, during which you were able to resolve the issue and pay out the amount due € 201.

The only solution to this dispute is the immediate payment of the amount due to Martin. When the amount for unpaid leave (which is the sole reason for this dispute) is paid, we will consider the dispute closed. "

Three days after the start of the dispute (or the very next day after the communication on Facebook), the money owed was paid out.

The dispute with the bistro ended even earlier and did not even get into the public phase, as the boss sent the money to the account before the deadline.

Thus, the actual escalation of pressure occurred only in the case of Space Mania. We even got a response from a third party there. The owner of the FUNTASIA agency, which collaborated with Space Mania on the so-called Frozen Party, told us to draw attention to the problem, that Space Manie's practices do not apply to her, and therefore she will not comment on the whole matter. We did not intend to accept such an alibi and therefore we decided to come to the Frozen Party as well.

That day we stopped in the center of Senec with leaflets about the dispute and support options. The people's reactions were favorable, many already knew about the problem and were surprised that something like this was happening. Many have promised to spread the word about the dispute among their acquaintances or to contact the business owner herself.

After arriving at the Space Manie, our favorite (the owner's husband) started yelling at us and shoving one of us. We responded calmly: we handed out leaflets to our parents and looked for an owner to tell us when she would pay the money she owed. The owner's husband, on the other hand, made a fuss and called on the worker behind the counter to call the police, which we found extremely inappropriate due to the presence of children (especially if the police did come). After a few minutes we left the premises. We additionally contacted the parents via Facebook and explained to them that it was not our intention to spoil the event for them or their children. We are parents ourselves and we explained that we think it is unacceptable for such people to work with children and do business without paying money for work.

The event in Senec was not the only coercive activity. The owner received dozens of e-mails from Slovakia and abroad. Mainly organizations (and their members) from the International Workers' Association (MAP) from Britain, Norway, Poland, Austria, Russia, Spain and the USA took part. The email was also sent by the MAP secretariat and support for Miu came from individuals and other friendly organizations in Britain, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Slovenia, Spain and the USA. Several people also expressed their views, for example, on the Space Manie Facebook page (from where, however, the posts were repeatedly deleted).

We returned to Senec once again - to the so-called pirate party. We armed ourselves with pirate masks, drums, banners and we could be heard all around. The owner of the café was not present again, our favorite was replaced by a hired SBS car, who didn't bother us in any way, because he was inside almost all the time. However, we still did not leave the boss alone. After about half an hour, we moved in front of her block of flats, where we continued chanting. This event was especially successful, because even though there were a few parents with children inside, the announced Pirate Party did not take place in the end.

We did not carry out any other planned activities, because a few days after Mia agreed on a plan of further actions, she began to resolve the dispute with the boss without our knowledge. As this was a breach of the joint action agreement, we had to notify Mia that we were suspending our activities. A week later, Mia informed us that the dispute was coming to an end. In the end, she did not get the money she owed.

https://www.priamaakcia.sk/Ako-sme-si-poradili-s-problemami-v-praci-Spory-Priamej-akcie-2015-2019.html
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