Escalation of conflicts in the Coal-mine Budryk Joint-Stock Company
It seemed that the vast array of measures undertaken by the unionists and the representatives of the board in the course of the conflict in the Coal-mine Budryk was finally exhausted. However, parties to the dispute resolved to appeal to court. What is more, their aim was not to solve the conflict, but to provide a legal basis for their actions.
Another strike of a wage-conflict origin was planned in the Budryk Joint Stock Mining Company (Kopalnia Węgla Kamiennego Budryk SA, KWK Budryk) by the unionists for 7 November (PL0511101N), which induced the management board to raise a civil complaint. The regional court in Katowice secured the documents and prohibited the unionists from taking strike actions other than refraining from work, i.e. they were forbidden to block mine shafts or hamper the work of other miners.
Due to the decision of the court, the range of protests of 7 November was much smaller than it had been expected - the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy Solidarność, NSZZ Solidarność) and the Trade Union Kadra (Związek Zawodowy Kadra, ZZ Kadra) did not join the strike. It was only three members of the Free Trade Union August 80 (Wolny Związek Zawodowy Sierpień 80, WZZ Sierpień 80) that resolved to initiate a hunger strike on 7 November who were subsequently joined by other persons. In consequence, 9 November witnessed twice the original number of strikers. However, the whole protest action came to an end on 10 November, when the WZZ August 80 unionists appealed to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Economy for support in order to solve the coal-mine conflict. Concurrently, NSZZ Solidarność raised a complaint against the court decision concerning the protest planned for 7 November. However, the examination of this question by the appeal court may take one month.
On 14 November the unionists from the WZZ Sierpień 80 took another strike action - a two-hour warning strike - and hampered the work of nearly all miners by blocking mine shafts. By doing that, they breached the court decision and gave the board a cause for applying for the reimbursement of costs incurred as a consequence of stopping the work of the whole enterprise. The board resisted the persuasion of the unionists that the blocking of mine shafts was inevitable because of their responsibility for the enterprise in view of the undertaken strike action. The board considered the protest illegal and decided to dismiss on a disciplinary basis twelve strikers. Four of them appealed to the board to mitigate the punishment, as they had apparently been convinced of the rightness of the strike action and had not apparently been informed about the illegal character of the protest. In response, the board granted their request and restricted its sanctions to a reprimand and only redistributed the four employees. However, the chair-person of the trade union was dismissed immediately. As far as the remaining seven persons to be dismissed are concerned, immediately following the strike they took a holiday or sick leave and on 27 November it transpired that they would not be dismissed at all but merely redistributed.
The situation in the Coal-mine Budryk becomes more and more complicated, which is partly due to the fact that specific trade unions adopt different strategies, e.g. it seems that everyone is in favour of the change of the director of the coal-mine, though simultaneously it is quite clear that not everybody would give their support to former Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD) senator.
NSZZ Solidarność and ZZ Kadra proclaimed that if the supervisory board failed to suspend the president and the whole board from office, they would start the preparations for a general strike, the date of which they had planned to announce on 28 November. The threats were not carried out, as there was a fire in the coal-mine, which momentarily turned the employees’ attention to other problems. Fortunately, there were no casualties and it is likely that the unionists will resume their conflict with the board as soon as possible. It is hard to foresee whether the conflicts in the Coal-mine Budryk will ever come to an end. However, what is for sure most unusual about this situation is the unprecedented engagement of the court.
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