Union protests at Budryk coal mine
October 2005 saw renewed protests over wages by workers at the Budryk coal-mining company in Poland. The conflict between the trade unions and the Budryk board follows a similar dispute in 2004. Trade unions are split between supporters and opponents of the board’s proposals and on 25 October an agreement on a pay increase was signed by only some of the unions. It will enter into force only after endorsement by the remaining unions.
Due to the relatively high price of coal, mining entities incorporated in joint stock form will have gained reasonable profits by the end of the 2005 financial year, though they will be much lower than those in 2004, when prices were noticeably higher. However, the relative slump in the coal market does not discourage the miners from making wage claims, as illustrated by the situation at the Budryk Joint Stock Mining Company (Kopalnia Węgla Kamiennego Budryk SA, KWK Budryk) in Ornontowice (PL0501103N and PL0409101N).
A wages conflict at Budryk started at the beginning of October and was partially resolved by a deal reached on 25 October - only partially, as the union-side signatories of the agreement did not include representatives of three trade unions - the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarnosc (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy Solidarność, NSZZ Solidarność), the Trade Union Kadra (Związek Zawodowy „Kadra”, ZZ Kadra) and the Free Trade Union August 80 (Wolny Związek Zawodowy „Sierpień ’80”, WZZ Sierpień 80) - which at the beginning of October announced the commencement of collective bargaining with the company’s board and announced that on 7 November they would organise an all-out strike. In this context, the endorsement of the agreement by the representatives of the remaining five trade unions does not make any difference to the possible course of the dispute.
The arrangements agreed on 25 October were seen as unsatisfactory by the three dissenting unions. The board agreed to a 3% wage increase and the distribution of PLN 700 worth of vouchers. The unions opposing the agreement demanded PLN 3,000 worth of vouchers and a flat-rate increase in wages by PLN 2 per day (the proponents of this solution argued that the 3% wage increase would mean the highest increase in wages for those who already have the highest earnings). Moreover, the three unions have suggested that the company’s board should be dismissed, while representatives of NSZZ Solidarność have expressed outrage that on the one hand the board points to a lack of finances while on the other filling a managerial post with a person linked with the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD).
However, some commentators see the non-signatory unions' position as somewhat surprising. In July 2005, the Budryk miners were granted a bonus of PLN 3,600 each from the company’s 2004 profits. Furthermore, some argue that the unions' demands might be curbed in view of the company's much lower profits than those of the previous year, and that the demands may further damage the financial situation of the firm.
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