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(en) Poland, how to help in ozarow - APPEAL FOR WORKERS' INITIATIVE SOLIDARITY FUND

From "Laure" <cube@zigzag.pl>
Date Wed, 11 Dec 2002 13:09:29 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

(With a brief description of events in Ozarow, Poland. More detailed description to follow.)

The aim of the solidarity fund is extremely simple: to give a little financial help where there may be no other sources of aid and to cover some expenses in times of
intense campaigns (i.e during strikes or repressions related with workplace and worker's activism). Funds are collected from members of Workers' Initiative throughout
Poland but during times of conflict, we may also appeal to outside sources for one-time donations. 
Funds collected are most likely to go towards:
  a.. expenses involved in maintaining (strike) actions such as donations to workers for expenses they may otherwise fail to cover, in particular for legal, medical or
other expenses incurred during strike actions
  b.. food or other basic neccessities required by people who have lost their jobs, particularly if they have lost it as a result of activism or have initiated a campaign
as a result of firings
  c.. some transport costs during longer campaigns in cases where local groups cannot afford travelling and where their help is essential

Ozarow is a small city near Warsaw with one main industry and source of employment: a state-of-the-art cable factory owned by Tele-fonika. Tele-fonika is a large cable
producer which is present on many foreign markets and is currently trying to expand its market share abroad. It is owned by Boguslaw Cupiala, the sixth richest man in
Poland, worth 1.7 billion dollars. His personal income skyrocketed after he managed to successfully restructure Tele-fonika; 700 people lost their jobs in Krakow and
profits increased amazingly. Now he has decided that Tele-fonika will be even more profitable when the Ozarow factory is liquidated and work moved to Szczecin and
Bydgoszcz. Not only will labour costs be cheaper there, but overheads will be cut dramatically by consolidating work in fewer locations. Easy capitalist logic - which has
meant unemployment for hundreds of families in Ozarow. And not only for workers in this factory, but for small business people like shop owners and the like who ha.

Cupiala ordered liquidation in the spring; workers in Ozarow have been on non-stop occupation for 8 months. Some of them are spending nights by the factory in tents in
below zero temperatures. Most of them have had no income for almost a year.

On November 26, after seven months of protest, trying to stop the company from removing all equipment from the factory and transporting it elsewhere, Cupiala arrived with a
private security company, IMPEL (which apparently had also employed Russian and Ukrainian commandoes in addition to the normal thugs), to clear out the workers and bring
away the equipment. Workers were brutally attacked. Police not only did not intervene, they arrested workers, particularly the most resistant. This of course occurred in
the middle of the night. By 9AM, the town had mobilized and set up roadblocks. Now the police and authorities began to mobilize the anti-riot squads. What followed were
truly shocking scenes shown all over the country; women trying to organize CDs by blocking the roads, praying, being beaten with police truncheons. Some workers were
arrested and some hospitalized. One was strangle with a truncheon until he was unconscious.

The next days were much the same with many confrontations. The low point of police brutality came when the squads raided the local kindergarten where the children of the
workers were, traumatizing the children. Their pretext was that they susupected workers of hiding molotov cocktails in the kindergarten! How low can you go? For months they
attacked the workers, calling them selfish, even telling them that their protest would cost the company money and mean that other people would lose their jobs because of
them. They pitted worker against worker. They told workers from Ozarow that they should just go to Warsaw and look for jobs instead of making trouble and kept telling the
media that the Ozarow workers had a good chance of finding employment whereas the potential jobs lost in Bydgoszcz and Szczecin, where there's really high unemployment were
proof that Ozarow workers were selfish and could care less about the fate of workers in less fortunate places. When the propaganda didn't sto...

Although there is a lot of sympathy for these people in Poland, the public opinion makers have been quite effective in their campaigns against workers. Cupiala is a
powerful person and there is little or no criticism of him in the media. The government does not require that financial statements regarding Tele-fonika be disclosed. The
papers are filled with articles about industries which are controlled by the state and are highly unprofitable, telling people how much of their tax money is being wasted
and how all these things need to be liquidated. They confuse the public with all these stories --- if the health service is wasting money, usually its because of some
bureaucrats misappropriating funds but the media often presents it as if the hospital workers who are striking just don't want to face the reality that they're social
parasites! Then when people from Tele-fonika blatantly lie about the financial situation of their company (and we don't know exact figures but we're 100% sur.
It is therefore extremely important that these struggles continue and are growing in strength in Poland and it is important, especially when unions can be manipulated by
large employers and the press, that there is some public support for these actions and that alternative information be available. 

Over 50 workers from Ozarow may face legal proceedings; many of them had never had any problems with the police before and, perhaps naively, believe that nothing will
happen to them, even to the ones caught on film throwing molotov cocktails, etc.. (We certainly hope the authorities will be sympathetic but we tend to prepare for the
worst). Since it has come to our attention that the workers didn't know even simple things (like don't sign confessions, don't talk, get badge numbers...), we tried to get
information to them about legal rights. We would like to be in a position to help out in the event of trials.

Besides our presence and perhaps some organizing skills, we would like to be able to offer some modest financial assistance if need be, to show solidarity, but the truth of
the matter is that just being able to get to Ozarow to help out has been difficult for activists. It's hard to know sometimes how $10 is better spent - going towards the
legal fund or helping you to get to Ozarow where there often are not enough people to stay in the tents all night and every body counts, particulary as they hope that
freezing weather will discourage people and they'll be able to get the remaining equipment out of the factory. So we understood the need to try to raise a little more money
for this campaign, otherwise eventually financial considerations will make the protest impossible to sustain.

We are asking people therefore to spread this information far and wide. There is information also available on the internet and more will follow shortly. If anybody from
abroad would like to show solidarity with this action by making a donation, we can assure you that this type of international support from below would be most appreciated.
We can accept donations by bank transfer or by checks drawn upon US accounts. For information, please contact Laure - cube@zigzag.pl,  Katarzyna paspartoo@go2.pl or the ABC

http://www.ip.hardcore.lt/ Pages of Workers Initiative, in Polish. Must read!
http://www.workers-iniative.poland.prv.pl In English. Not much there yet. But some info to be had.

http://www.fko.prv.pl/     http://www.ozarow.maz.pl/fko/  in Polish. Pages about the protest in Ozarow.  On the first page there are lots of pictures and a video. (Click on

www.okpinfo.prv.pl Pages of Polish Protest Committee. Made by comrades in Poznan. Info (in Polish) on dozens and dozens of actions.

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