On Monday, around 6:00 am, a general strike began at the Solaris Bus & Coach factory in Bolechowo near Poznań. The collective dispute in the company had been going on for several months. In January, a strike referendum was held, in which 1,342 people voted, i.e. 51.7 percent. entitled. The general strike was supported by 1,244 people, i.e. 92.7 percent. voters. “This is an unambiguous and overwhelming result. It gives us a strong mandate for further actions “- wrote unionists.
Solaris Bus & Coach sp. Z oo is one of the largest European producers of buses and trolleybuses. The company – from 2018 belonging to the Spanish CAF group – employs approx. 2,600 people. As trade unionists point out, recent years have been good for the company. Profit in 2020 – PLN 108.5 million – was the highest in history. The revenues were also record-breaking – PLN 3.08 billion.
“Our demands were quite modest: PLN 400 pay rise for everyone in 2021 and the same in 2022. The employer consistently rejected this. Its aim was to direct the stream of increases to appreciate specialists and managers. During these months, a disinformation campaign was also carried out, “bottom-up” lists of employees were created, the management itself between the lines scared employees that if the trade unions did not accept mini-increases, there would be no “- informs on Facebook OPZZ Confederation of Labor, co-organizer of the strike next to NSZZ “Solidarność”.
“The employer fully respects the right of trade unions to strike (…) At the same time, we deeply regret that the Union side decided to take, in our opinion, disproportionate actions, such as the decision to strike. From the very beginning, at every stage of the negotiations, the trade union side showed an apparent willingness to talk and work out an agreement, unilaterally ending individual negotiation phases after only two meetings “- we read in statement board of Solaris, issued before the official start of the strike.
“On January 14, the employer unilaterally granted all employees of the company a 5 percent increase. remuneration (minimum PLN 270 gross, which with bonuses means approximately PLN 340 gross). An additional group of around 800 direct production workers received an additional raise – this applies to electricians, welders, painters and foremen. It is part of the basic salary. Increases of this amount mean a total company-wide increase in the salary budget by nearly PLN 17 million per year. Let us also recall that in the last three years, Solaris has allocated a total of over PLN 60 million (accumulated) to pay raises for its employees. The result of the strike referendum will not change the decision on the increases granted, ”announces the management board.
Trade unions do not accept these arguments.
“The wages of manual workers in blue-collar positions in the Bolechowo hall are low. Not much more than the minimum wage – PLN 2,900.3,000 net. Meanwhile, Solaris, like the entire industrial sector in Poland, is doing very well. In 2020, the company recorded a profit of PLN 100 million, ”says Piotr Ostrowski, vice-president of OPZZ in an interview with OKO.press. – “800 PLN gross was the starting proposal for increases. In the course of the negotiations, the employees dropped from this amount by half. It turned out that PLN 400 is still too much, according to the management board. However, this proposal is no longer available. The union returned to its original demands for a PLN 800 increase ”.
Left: Workers lose because of inflation
On Monday, politicians and women from the Left supported the trade union hall in the hall. In the hall appeared, among others Adrian Zandberg and Maciej Konieczny from Together and Katarzyna Ueberhan and Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk from Nowa Left.
“The same is happening in Solaris as in many other places in Poland. Big companies have record profits, but workers’ wages are stagnant. It is enough to go into the store, see the gas or electricity bills to realize that if wages do not rise, millions of workers will get poorer from month to month, ”said Adrian Zandberg during the press conference at which the strike was announced. Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk added: “Today, each of Solaris employees will lose the equivalent of one salary due to inflation. The time of rampant high prices is the time when these profits need to be shared ”.
“The employer will not share the profits by himself, he will do it if he feels that there are organized workers in the plant. This results in high wages in Western Europe, because there trade unions demand their wages. Employers in France or Spain are not nicer and more willing to share their profits. They just know that on the other side there is a strong negotiating partner with whom you have to sit down at the table every year, ”said Maciej Konieczny.
Trade unions not admitted
In the first hours of the strike, there was also an incident – representatives of the union headquarters were not allowed to enter the plant. The management of Solaris did not allow representatives of union headquarters to enter the site.
“It was a strange situation. We showed up before six in the morning at the plant. Security let us in, we participated in the start of the strike. We spoke and discussed with the employees. At 08:00 we went outside the factory gate for a press conference, after which the security did not want to let us back into the plant, ”reports Piotr Ostrowski.
Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk and Adrian Zandberg intervened in the matter of admitting trade unionists. As they found out, the decision was made by the management board due to covid restrictions.
– A. Dziemianowicz-Bąk (@AgaBak) January 24, 2022
“We will not leave this case. This is a violation of the Trade Union Act and the International Labor Organization Convention. Pts. 17 sec. 1 of Recommendation No. 143 states: “Trade union representatives who are not employed in an enterprise, but whose employees are members of the enterprise, should have free access to such an enterprise”, Poland has ratified this convention, that is the law in force, ”comments Piotr Ostrowski.