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(en) Poland, WORKERS' INITIATIVE: Resistance of Crane Operators in the Slovenian port of Koper [machine translation]

Date Sun, 25 Feb 2018 09:45:44 +0200

Logo of the Trade Union of Crane Operators in the Port of Koper ---- In the city of Koper there is the only seaport in Slovenia. It is of strategic importance for international logistics operations and has been an arena for the struggle of port crane operators associated in an independent trade union with the neo-liberal policy of the Slovenian authorities for several years. ---- Port Koper is an extremely important enterprise for the local economy, owned and managed by a state-owned company. This model differs from the ownership and managerial structure of many other ports in Europe, which have been privatized for many years. However, since the 1980s, the company has been implementing a neoliberal port development strategy, which consists in subordinating it to the interests of large international capital and increasing the rate of exploitation by charging additional working hours and destabilizing employment. Overtime, junk contracts (self-employment) and reduced safety standards have become the norm, which - as confirmed by hundreds of accidents in Poland - results in tragedies in the workplace.

In July last year, the crane operator, who was also chairman of the trade union Sindikat Žerjavistov Pomorskih Dejavnosti Luke Koper(Trade Union of Crane Operators in the Dock Harbor), caused an accident in which a Macedonian worker died, came to Slovenia in search of better wages. The real reason for his death, however, was the policy of port managers, who made profits before the rules of security. Being part of the public sector, the company was able to survive the crisis of 2008-2009 thanks to the state guardianship and even to inspire the Italian port sector to implement the ownership and management model from the port of Koper. However, towards employees, it presents an aggressively neoliberal approach in which the reduction of costs is crucial. The port's authorities maintain about 500-person reserve army of workers on pre-conditions. If necessary (eg problems with the striking crew or problems in negotiations with subcontractors contracted for specific works in the port),

The abovementioned accident became a pretext for an attack on the Trade Union of Crane Operators in the Port of Koper - the port authorities tried to throw responsibility for the accident on the organization's chairman and dismiss him in disciplinary mode, but thanks to the international solidarity campaign supported, among others by the International Dockworkers Council, he managed to fight for leaving him at work.

The Association of Operators was created in 2007 in opposition to the three yellow compounds already operating in the port. The organization gradually strengthened to conduct an eight-day strike in 2011, forcing the Ministry of Infrastructure to meet all demands of the protesters. In 2016, the union carried out a blockade of the port, drawing the wrath of the Slovenian political elite and the media. The Association of Operators stands out against other Slovenian workers' organizations. In addition to the battle attitude and successes in the fight against the alliance of international capital, local and state authorities, he is also characterized by the willingness to cooperate with social movements, especially with refugees and organizations acting on their behalf. Many operators are immigrants for whom the relationship has become a platform for integration and a common fight for basic rights and wage increases.

The employee resistance at the port of Koper is directed against both the neo-liberal methods of management and the threats stemming from the geopolitical context. The port remains the object of interest and competition of various international entities, including German and Austrian logistics corporations and Chinese investors. The latter want to make Koper an important link in the "New Silk Road", which means, in essence, expanding the sphere of influence of Chinese capital in the Mediterranean. From an employee's point of view, the integration of Adriatic ports within this project may have positive effects, but the key here is the ability to exercise control over it by employees, and not by institutions of capital of this or other nationality.

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