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(en) Poland, ozzip WORKERS' INITIATIVE: After the strike at PLL LOT - Growing worries in the global aviation industry [machine translation]

Date Sun, 6 Jan 2019 09:06:33 +0200


The first day of the strike at PLL LOT (18/10/2018) ---- The article appeared in the December issue of Le Monde Diplomatique - Polish edition. Reprinted with the editorial board's consent. ---- On 1 November, a two-week strike in the Polish Airlines LOT Airlines ended - organized despite judicial bans in the industry of key importance to the economy and ended with an agreement in a form that is rarely achieved by trade unions. It is not exaggerating to say that this was one of the most important workers' protests in Poland in recent years and a symptom of growing unrest in the aviation industry around the world. ---- Conflict at LOT began 5 years ago, when the management board of the company terminated the remuneration regulations in force from 2010 and containing the rules of calculating wages favorable to the staff. The President of LOT, contrary to trade unions, replaced the regulations with "framework guidelines" lowering salaries on average by 20-30%. At the same time, due to financial problems caused by the increase in aviation fuel prices, the company received state aid of 527 million PLN provided that it did not increase employment until 2016[1]- LOT Crew and LOT Cabin Crew subsidiaries were established, through which the new staff were forced to set up a business and provide services to LOT as part of the so-called B2B contracts (business to business). This solution has meant that currently half of LOT's staff (about 800-1000 people from over 2,000

Cutting wages and forcing self-employment was not without a reaction. In 2016, the top five employees were able to obtain court judgments ordering them to pay their wages in accordance with the 2010 rules - the courts recognized that the employer has no right to unilaterally change the remuneration principles without the consent of the unions. However, the Board appealed to the Supreme Court, which recognized the employer's arguments and referred the case for reconsideration, citing, inter alia, for "freedom of doing business"[2]. The Trade Union of Air and Ship Personnel (ZZPPiL) together with the Trade Unions of Transport Pilots (ZZPK) started a collective dispute demanding a return to the remuneration rules from 2010. The unions argued that it is about 36 million in the situation when LOT in 2017. reached 283 million profits, and the management received PLN 2.5 million in awards[3].

A difficult but effective strike

In April this year The trade unions operating at LOT conducted a strike referendum in which 855 employees took part, of which 807 were in favor of a strike[4]. The strike was originally scheduled for May 1, but three days earlier a civil court, at the request of the company's authorities, issued a decision prohibiting a strike in the so-called the "claim security" mode - the management questioned the legitimacy of the referendum and demanded that the strike be forbidden until it was determined whether the unions were in breach of the law. ZZPK and ZZPPiL organized a protest picket instead of a strike and appealed against the decision prohibiting the strike. The board's response was a disciplinary dismissal of Monika Zelazik - a trade union activist in the ZZPPiL group, who was accused, among others, "Inciting terrorism"[5].

The temperature of the dispute quickly began to increase: at the end of May and in June at LOT's Warsaw headquarters two solidarity demonstrations took place under the slogan of restoring Monika to work; in turn, the president of LOT Rafal Milczarski threatened the union with claims for compensation for losses caused by the announced strike. There was also a legal battle on the legality of strike action - while the court examined the legality of the referendum, ZZPK and ZZPPiL announced the second date of the strike on September 28, but also in this case the management managed to obtain a ban on the strike. The third deadline was set for October 18. This time, however, the court dismissed the next action of the company and on the appointed day, at At 5:00 am pilots, pilot, stewardesses and stewards began a strike.

It turned out that it will take place in extremely difficult conditions: half of the staff could not legally take part in it (due to lack of employment contracts), and the employer quickly forbade being in the office building's hall - the strikers gathered every day in the square in front of LOT, freezing in rain and wind from 6:00 to 22:00. Already on the first day they received calls with threats of dismissals, and the persons who did not join the strike did grant bonuses. In spite of this, about 200 people were mobilized to participate in it, and to a large extent they constituted the key personnel - pilots with the privileges of intercontinental flights and stewardesses who could act as the heads of the Dreamliners' deck. In the following days, the management continued the policy of exerting pressure: On October 22, 67 people received a discipline by e-mail for participation in an "illegal strike", a day later the organizers and organizers received pre-court pay appeals of 600,000. zl. LOT also began to rent aircraft and staff from other airlines (spending PLN 3.5m on them)[6]to keep the flights running smoothly. However, this did not break the strikers, nor was it fully effective - 130 flights were canceled for two weeks (4.5% of all scheduled), which resulted in losses of 50 million PLN.

Determination of the strikers paid off - on 29 October under pressure of losses, media storm and high social support for protest, the board sat down for talks, which after 3 days ended with an agreement, under which the authorities pledged to restore all those who were dismissed (including Monika Zelazik ), renouncing financial claims and returning to talks on the principles of remuneration.

This opens the way not only to improve the situation of LOT's staff, but it can also affect other companies in the industry. The agreement at LOT is very important for increasing the morale of trade union movement in other industries - it shows that a strike can be won despite the seemingly stiff attitude of the board and the use of tactics of court strike bans. As for the impact on aviation, the marketing director Ryanair bluntly admitted: "If LOT offered jobs, we would probably have to give them to employees in Poland, but we do not have to"[7].

Conflicts engulf the entire industry

Ryanair is also an arena of equally sharp conflict as Polish Airlines - from July, from time to time, strikes break out in it and new trade union organizations are formed. In July 600 flights were canceled as a result of coordinated action by unions from Spain, Belgium and Portugal, in August 350 flights were canceled when union members from Germany joined them - they continued the action themselves in September, leading to the cancellation of 150 flights. All of these actions were organized by requiring the recruitment of staff based on the law of the country where Ryanair operates, instead of forced self-employment in Ireland. On October 12, a union organization in Polish Ryanair was established, fighting to preserve existing employment conditions - despite the plans of the authorities of the line, wanting to use Polish self-employment in Poland (as the only country in Europe),

As if that were not enough, the protests also organize ground personnel: on October 2, at 43 airports in 13 countries trade union demonstrations took place as part of a global campaign to increase wages, increase employment and direct employment of personnel transferred to subcontractors[9]. On November 14, the dispute also began in the State Airports - the company managing airports in Poland. Here, the reason is the dismissals lasting for 3 years related to the liquidation of job positions, which have already affected 60 out of 1.6 thousand. employees of the company[10].

Where does this wave of employee dissatisfaction in the industry, which has always been regarded as guaranteeing high wages and good working conditions, come from? According to a report prepared by the international trade union UniGlobal[11], the reason is that the aviation industry has experienced exactly the same changes in recent years as other sectors of the economy: intensification of work without employment growth, widespread use of outsourcing and huge pressure to cut "employment costs" ". Data from the International Air Transport Association show that in an industry that employs almost 10 million people globally (airports, airlines, state agencies and the civilian aviation industry) and where the airline's profits in the period 2013-2017 increased almost fourfold (from 10.7 up to 38 billion dollars), more than half of the work is outsourced to external companies. The effect of this is a dramatic drop in wages (in the US in the case of baggage sorting, wages fell by 45% from 2002 to 2012), increased work intensity and an increasing staff turnover.

Both airports and airlines are increasingly reminiscent of jobs such as Amazon warehouses and the cleaning industry in the public sector. However, it opens, as you can see, also prospects for an increase in the number of employee conflicts and strikes. And as the example of a strike at LOT shows, these may be conflicts of key importance for the whole economy.

Jakub Grzegorczyk

footnotes:

1 - Tomasz Sniedziewski, Report: Polish Aviation Group. A model closer to China than Europe, Pasazer.pl website URL: https://www.pasazer.com/news/37412/raport,polska,grupa,lotnicza,model,blizszy,chinom,niznicza,europie.html (access from 20.11. 2018).

2 - Aneta Oksiuta, the Supreme Court, quashed the verdict of the district court, the bankier.pl portal appealed by PLL LOT, URL: https://www.bankier.pl/wiadomosc/Sad-Najwyzszy-uchylil-zaskarzony-przez-PLL-LOT-wyrok -sadu-district-4113524.html (access from 3.12.2018).

3 - Adriana Rozwadowska, Zwolniona szefowa zwiazków zawodowych w PLL LOT: "Od stycznia wyslalismy do rzadu 47 pism. Na prózno", Gazeta Wyborcza, 14.06.2018 r. URL: http://wyborcza.pl/7,155287,23536447,zwolniona-szefowa-zwiazkow-zawodowych-w-pll-lot-od-stycznia.html (dostep z 19.11.2018).
Maciej Samcik, Strajk w LOT: stawka nie sa juz ani etaty dla pilotów, ani fotel prezesa. W gruzy obraca sie cos znacznie cenniejszego dla LOT-u, Blog "Subiektywnie o finansach" wpis z 24.10.2018 r. URL: https://subiektywnieofinansach.pl/strajk-w-lot-stawka-nie-sa-juz-ani-etaty-dla-pilotow-ani-fotel-prezesa-w-gruzy-obraca-sie-cos-znacznie-cenniejszego-dla-lot/ (dostep z 19.11.2018).

4 - Emilia Derewienko, He will strike at PLL LOT. Trade unions: The strike referendum is legal, marketplace-platform.pl, URL: https://www.rynek-lotniczy.pl/wiadomosci/bedzie-strajk-w-pll-lot-zwiazki-zawodowe-referendum-strajkowe-jest -legal-3505.html (access from 4.11.2018).

5 - Adriana Rozwadowska, Exposed stewardess versus LOT. Who is Monika Zelazik?, Gazeta Wyborcza, 19/10/2018 URL: http://wyborcza.pl/7,155287,24062292,rzucone-stewardesa-kontra-lot-kim-jest-monika-zelazik.html (access from 11.04.2018).

6 - Emilia Derewienko, LOT strike: 3.5 million zlotys for the leasing of substitute aircraft, Portal Rynek-Lotniczy.pl from 25/10/2018, URL: https://www.rynek-lotniczy.pl/wiadomosci/strajk- in-flight-35-million-zlotych-on-leasing-aircraft-replacement - 4671.html (access from 29/10/2018).

7 - Mariusz Piotrowski, Ryanair brutally honest: "If LOT offered jobs, we would probably have to give them to employees in Poland. But we do not have to ", the Fly4Free.pl website URL: https://www.fly4free.pl/zmiany-w-ryanair-w-polsce/ (access from 14/11/2018).

8 - Adriana Rozwadowska. A trade union was established in Polish Ryanair. "We earn over 30 percent. less than in other countries ", Gazeta Wyborcza, 14 September, URL: http://wyborcza.pl/7,155287,23920445-w-polski-ryanarze-powstal-zwiazek-zawodowy-zarabiamy-o-adon.html (access from 19/11/2018).

9 - Leslie Mendoza Kamstra, Airport Workers Protesting Around the Globe for Fair Wages, Union Rights, Portal Globenewswire.com on October 2, 2012, URL: https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/10/02/1588269 /0/en/Airport-Workers-Protesting-Around-the-Globe-for-Fair-Wages-Union-Rights.html access from 18/11/2018).

10 - Edyta Bryla, Collective dispute in the Airports. Trade unions: "The company slows down employees and does not pay out prizes. This is the penalty for supporting the LOT strike ", Gazeta Wyborcza, 14/11/2018, URL: http://wyborcza.pl/7,155287,24165993,spor-zbiorowy-w-portach-lotniczych-zwiazkowcy-firma-zwalnia.html (access from 15/11/2018).

11 - "Fix what is broken: Why aiport workers demand change?" UniGlobal Union report from October 2018, URL: http://www.airportworkersunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/AviationReport-FINAL. pdf (access from 12/11/2018).

http://ozzip.pl/teksty/publicystyka/walki-pracownicze/item/2438-po-strajku-w-lot-narastajace-niepokoje-w-globalnej-branzy-lotniczej
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