The story of the blockade in Ozarow cable factory in Poland

18 november 2002

Ten people from the Anarchist Federation and Workers' Initiative from Poznan and Warsaw went to Ozarow yesterday to spend the night helping out the blockades. Workers have been holding strike actions for months since their cable factory decided that cheaper labour could be found elsewhere.

During the time of the sit-in, we had time to learn that the workers
from other factories belonging to the same polish electronics corporation, the ones in Poznan and Bydgoszcz not only refused to support the strike, but their unions have written petitions to the government calling for the eviction of the protesters! They seem to think that if people in one factory lose their jobs, they won't lose theirs. Ironically, the factory in Szczecin is now laying-off workers too. The women workers i talked
with in Ozarow were however not spiteful of their collegues who
have broken solidarity in such a way. They said they don't believe that
rank-and-file members of the unions in Szczecin and Bydgoszcz really
approved the petitions calling for eviction. We decided to call
for solidarity pickets in Szczecin, since there is a local IP (workers'
initiative)
group in that city.

Other things we've learned, is that the police have tried to
intimidate the striking workers by making an anti-terrorist
squad invade a kindergarten belonging to the factory. Guys
in skimasks with guns were jumping over the fence of the kindergarten,
supposedly to "check a fire alarm", as the official explanation said.
This was an effort to scare the children and this way indirectly
pressure the strikers.
Despite of the efforts of the authorities and private police,
the strikers have many supporters in the neighbourhood (since
most of the blocks around are inhabited by ex-workers of the factory
or their families) and are able to mobilise hundreds of people
in literally minutes in case a team of private police attempts
to break the blockade.

Next time we plan to bring a F'n'B team there and organise
some activities for children, like a wall for climbing or stuff like that.

Zaczek

26 november 2002

At 3:30 AM today several dozen private police have attacked about 200
protesting workers in Ozarow cable factory. At least one person
was wounded and later taken to the hospital. Volounteer firemen
were called in by the protesters and they sprayed water on the private
police.

At about 4 o'clock the state police came into action and forced the way
open to the gate of the factory.
In the meantime, the protesters blockaded the main route Poznan-Warsaw
running next to the factory. The lorries coming to disassemble
the production lines in the factory were attacked with bricks and stones.
10 people were arrested. Some lorry drivers refused to continue working
under the conditions, but by the evening as i write, several truckloads
of equipment have already left the factory.

The factory in Ozarow is one of the thousands of examples
of how profitable factories which gave employment to whole
cities were dismantled in the process of restructuring and
scam privatisations. The laid-off workers in Ozarow resisted
for 210 days blockading the main gate of the factory to
prevent the liquidation of the factory. The equipment and materials will
be moved to factories in Bydgoszcz and Szczecin, also
belonging to the same polish corporation.

Some members of FA-Warsaw are on the spot among the protesters,
and we expect more people from other cities to
come in the next days, but the struggle might be over very quickly.

Zaczek

28 november 2002

Today was a day of intense clashes of ex-workers of the Ozarow
cable factory. People young and old, mothers with children and
football hooligans tried to break the police
lines and block outgoing trucks. Union activists from Siedlce, other cities
in Poland and from Denmark have participated in the standoff.
The representatives of the Ozarow union stated that they intend
to retake the factory with force.
I know about 3 arrests of our comrades from Poznan, there is no
further information about arrests so far. Tomorrow and saturday
more people from the country will come with support, including Food not
Bombs and Samba groups.

Zaczek

29 november 2002

A couple of dozen people from Workers' Initiative and the Anarchist
Federation are fighting in Ozarow with the workers and the weekend promises
to be hot. Already more shock troops of workers' activists from Gdansk
shipyard arrived and attacked the police. Anarchists from Lodz, Warsaw,
Poznan and Silesia are on the spot with people from Bialystok and Szczecin
to come.

In the past few weeks, there has been a couple of incidents with police
using violence against striking workers. The number of strike actions in
Poland are growing. In general, this is because of worsening economic
situation due to increased pressure to restructure industries and what looks
like some concerted efforts to disassemble some industries here. For
example, after France Telecom bought a large share in Polish TPSA, they
started to buy cables from Alcatel instead of Ozarow, although the cables in
Ozarow are not worse than the ones produced by Alcatel. Ozarow just is being
liquidated so the company can restructured and make more money; it had state
of the art equipment which was removed in trucks and brought to Bydgoszcz.
Workers tried in vain to stop the trucks but were attacked by special
forces. In a rare move, Ukrainians and Russians were also used to pacify the
workers.

Most people are sympathetic to the workers and there has been a lot of
public support - but mostly in words, not in actions. The repression is
getting such in Poland that ordinary people are usually too afraid.

Last week police sent commandoes in the kindergarten where the children of
the striking workers go --- sending a clear message that they were ready to
stop at nothing and trying to make people think they were putting their own
children at risk by striking.

Laure

1 december 2002

The protests continue in Ozarow, even though the number of protesters
is rather small. There was only 60-70 people today, including the
anarchist black block. Despite what the media was announcing,
the liquidation of the factory is far from being physically completed.
So far, little more than 120 trucks have left the factory (39 today).
According to the estimations of the workers, it will take 900 trucks in
total
to transport the complete production lines, materials and stocks
of finished products. This could still take almost a month. So far
the police have promised protection of the transports for 7 days only.
The transports are also protected by private police, many of whom
are foreign (notably from Ukraine).

Since it's not possible to completely block the transports because
of the small number of people (not even all of the 900 ex-workers of
Ozarow participate, not to mention other inhabitants of Ozarow,
who only passively support the action), the tactics so far include
intimidation and harrasment of guards with continual attacks
with stones, fireckrackers, metal projectiles. The protesters have
followed the trucks on the road and attacked their windshields
with stones, and dispersed nails on the road to slow their progress.
So far 6 trucks have been damaged and forced to stop.

The protesters i talked to see their struggle as part of a bigger
struggle against "economic readjustment" and the economic policies
of the last 12 years. It's painfully clear for them that their
goals cannot be achieved with the current level of apathy in
Polish society. However those few ex-workers who keep
on at the protest despite increasingly bad weather (first snows
started today) keep up good spirits despite the cold, police
repression, and the feeling of hopelessness. Their experience
with the the police this last week makes everybody (even
the most soft spoken or most prudish) refer to police
by: "those dogs". It was just too obviously clear for everybody
that the cops were at the service of rich thieves and not
protecting people from the violence of private security thugs.

Zaczek

2 december 2002

Below I have fax addresses for Telefonika sales and distribution centers.
Maybe a bit of a fax campaign about liquidation the Ozarow factory? All of
these presidents seem to be Polish, so maybe Zaczek can put up a letter in
Polish to be send, although we encourage people to write their own. The only
e-mail I found was:
Sales@Copper-Cable.co.uk
I'll look for more addresses now.

BTW, on TV yesterday there was a live show from Ozarow. One thing we were
impressed with was that the management was accusing people of throwing
Molotov Cocktails, etc. and the bastard who runs the show wanted to get into
the fact that "outside agitators" were doing stuff like that. We thought for
sure one of the trade union bastards would blame anarchists (because of
course they're the easiest to blame) but they didn't.

You may also contact Telefonika's other overseas sales and distribution
centers, including:

U.S.A.
Elektrim North America Corporation
1002 Carolina Drive
West Chicago, IL 60185
phone: 630 8763606
fax: 630 8763607
President Andrzej Kazimierczuk


FRANCE
Metallexfrance S.A.
43/45, avenue de Clichy
75 017 Paris
phone: 033 1 45 22 27 81
fax: 033 1 43 87 23 81


UKRAINE
ENEJ Ltd.
22B, Lunacharskovo Str 02002 Kyiv
Ukraine
Contact: Jan Sztefunek
phone: 00380 44 517 5167
fax: 00380 44 517 3398


GERMANY
Enercom Handelsges
Kleinhuelsen 29
D-40721 Hilden
Contact: Ryszard Olewnik
phone: 49 21 03 584116
fax: 49 21 03 584150

CZECH REPUBLIC
Until S.R.O.
Obornik 31
78901 Zabreh
Contact: Wieslaw Czarnecki
phone: 00 420 648 414 653
fax: 44 420 648 411 706
UNITED KINGDOM
Copper Cable Company Ltd.
Unit 5, Interlink Park
Nr. Coalville
Bardon Hill, Leicestershire LE 67 1LA
phone: 0870 0006242
fax: 0870 0006241
Sales@Copper-Cable.co.uk
Management phone: 01530 278807
Management fax: 01530 812221

2 december 2002

Why do 900 people have to lose their livelihood in Ozarow?

Representatives of Telefonika have told the press that there's no demand for
cables and that keeping
these people employed might jeopardise the position of the other 4000 people
employed by Telefonika in Poland. (Typical bastard tactic of trying to puit
workers against each other.)

But what's a measly half million dollars a year in salary to Telefonika's
100% owner, Boguslaw Cupial. He can easily afford to just give the money
away because Cupial is Poland's sixth richest man - and is worth 1.7 billion
dollars. In 2001 alone, his business interests brought in 500 million
dollars.

A few years ago, Cupial was only the fortiest richest in Poland, but after
restructuring a factory in Krakow- where 700 people lost their jobs -
profits increased a couple of hundred procent ---- and so didn't Cupial's
personal wealth.

Telefonika representatives blatantly lie to the workers and media that
demand for cables has decreased. On the other hand, they are expanding their
markets.

Restructuring is the capitalist bastards' way of increasing profits. They
make people in other factories work harder, constantly under the threat that
they'll lose their jobs too. Everybody suffers --- except Cupial, who is
stuffing his pockets with more money than anybody needs.

Poland's superrich enjoy extremely good conditions for exploitation - and
the government helps them out.
More and more billionaires are popping up. But some are not satisfied still.
Certain firms, like Reserved, a clothing manufacturer, still sees Polish
workers as "too expensive" and produces in Asia.

Laure

8 december 2002

Anarchists from Workers' Initiative (Lodz, Warsaw, Poznan and Szczecin) were
in Ozarow again this weekend trying to lend some support to the camp at the
factory. The weather is freezing - at least 20 below- but workers found a
nice way to take advantage of it; they keep pouring water on the roads to
make too much ice near the factory so that trucks can't get near it. The
factory didn't manage to get out all its equipment and send it elsewhere
since the trucks sent last week were met with molotov cocktails and the
like. Of course, after beating the crap out of workers, they did manage to
take some of the equipment away.

One thing that is a little funny (or maybe sad) about some of the workers in
Ozarow (and this may be typical of some non-politicized workers) is that
some of them don't believe that the authorities could possibly charge them
with anything, because "it's the cops and the security guards who beat us
and will get punished". We are usually under the assumption that after such
clashes, people at least get big fines. So really it turns out that the
unions are not good at making people aware of how to behave when at a
protest or even aware of what the consequences of direct actions could be.
There are plenty of video tapes of workers throwing molotovs without their
faces covered or anything but somehow there are people who think nothing
will come of it. We're not so sure. The unions are always interested in
behaving like sheep and negotiating with the government - it doesn't give
advice on actions or how to organize yourself.

A woman from Poznan who has been very active in this protest pointed out a
few ways that we've helped or can help that the unions wouldn't think of.
For example, organizing a press conference for the rank and file. The union
people normally talk for the workers and the rank and file protestors it
turned out had no idea how to contact the media.

Yesterday a couple of workers talked about how they were dreaming of a
general strike, how it would be the only thing to help --- but that there's
no chance of it happening. From how I see, there are plenty of strikes going
on all around the country... the biggest problems are the capitalist
propaganda and lack of imagination.
www.workers-initiative.poland.prv.pl
Laure

11 december 2002

APPEAL FOR WORKERS' INITIATIVE SOLIDARITY FUND

(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:
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
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
some transport costs during longer campaigns in cases where local groups cannot afford travelling and where their help is essential
THE CAMPAIGN IN OZAROW - WHY WE WANT TO HELP AND HOW YOU CAN TOO

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 have no more clients as cash-strapped workers tighten their belts.

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 stop the protest, they just tried to stop it by force. When even that didn't work, they made it perfectly clear that their families could be hurt. But the protest is still going on anyway.

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% sure that Tele-fonika makes a healthy profit), saying they're sorry but the spoiled workers from Ozarow just have to face the fact that they're not needed and keeping them would amount to charity that robs other workers of potential new jobs, then the media buy this bullshit.
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 Poland.

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 galeria.)

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

8 january 2003


Two weeks ago, about 15 ex-workers broke inside the factory compound
and attacked the security guards. I was away for a while so i don't have
fresher info. I'll try to get it soon.

Zaczek

12 january 2003

We visited Ozarow yesterday with some small help for buying coal.
The situation on the 286th day of the protest (all this time
the workers were blocking the entrance to the factory - lowest
temperature during this time was minus 26 degrees) is this:

- Another gate has been opened by the security guards and trucks
with fuel were able to get inside with supplies of fuel for the lifters
used to disassemble machines in the factory. This means that another
blockade had to be established there, which is difficult given the small
number
of people who still have energy to protest. However no new trucks with
equipment
have left the factory since early december when i last reported. But the new
owner
of the factory has achieved what he wanted: the factory stopped
manufacturing cable, and his corporation has got rid of competition.

- The protesters are now trying to establish a workers' company for which
they demand financial guarantees from the city Ozarow. If this succeeds
they want to demand that the minister of industry gives them back part
of the factory so that they can resume production. So far the only thing
the government has promised is to create a special economic zone
in Ozarow (this is forbidden under regulations imposed by EU,
so they have to find some tricky way creating a sub-zone of an
already existing one). In the opinion of workers this will be worthless
because
there is no talk of any production of cable in this future zone.

- Ex-workers find it impossible to find other jobs. Most of them are
over 40 years old, which means nobody wants to employ them. Usually
when they say "i'm from Ozarow" the interview is over. The employers
don't want someone who can fight for their rights. The material
situation of ex-workers is getting desperate.

During the last weeks, miner trade-unions have signed aggreements
to close more coal mines in Silesia. Ozarow people counted on their
solidarity, but nothing much came out of it. A woman from Ozarow said
that the owner could have easily tricked the people working
in the cable factory too, and they would have disassembled the
factory themselves and not resisted if the layoffs were gradual. The only
thing that mobilised them was the extreme arrogance of the new owner.

They still express disbelief how it's possible that the government
is creating the conditions for a total collapse of the entire country's
economy.

The situation is very depressing, because even though the struggle
in Ozarow has a big significance as a symbol and example
for future struggles, it is rather unlikely that the cable workers will
gain anything for themselves from this.

It might work as a threat forcing other employers for more
respect for workers, maybe in the way that the threat of
communism forced better social standards in western europe.
But those living under communism hardly profited from that...

Zaczek

21 february 2003

I have some news, unconfirmed so far, about the end of the picket at the
gates of cable factory in Ozarow after it lasted for an entire year.
Apparently the government has aggreed to invest into the worker's company,
which will receive two production buildings. The policy of the new
company will be to first hire ex-workers of the cable factory.
The down side is that the company will not be able to manufacture cables.

Zaczek

27 april 2003

Members of Worker's Initiative from Opole, Upper Silesia and Warsaw took
part in a demo organized by Solidarity on 25.04. At least 40-50,000 people
took part. Interestingly, a good 40-50% were women, many quite young. There
were many views and issues but the main thing was dissatisfaction with the
government.

I spoke with women I'd met last year from a confectionary in Podlasie. The
owner is trying to sell it to a foreign investor now. Some women were
telling me that they are trying to convince other women there that the
foreign investors are no going to "save" them; that's what a lot of the
women are hoping for. I also spoke with people from Ozarow who said that
many but not all of the workers found new but worse work. As for the most
active leaders of the action, the "good" pro-settlement people are accused
of getting new jobs in exchange for giving up labour organizing while the
rank and file troublemakers have mostly found themselves blacklisted.

Laure

30 maja 2003

Maybe somebody can help out with a little research because I'm hitting a
dead end. People from Ozarow were protesting in Warsaw. They are upset
because they say Stena will use Ozarow as an industrial waste site.

As a rare exception, I wonder if it won't be too bad; Stena is mainly into
recycling metal. On the other hand, I think they may also work with other
wastes. I was wondering if anybody can try to snoop around and find out what
kind of plans Stena has. I have a feeling it may be recycling metal and but
people have a very strong fear that they're gonna become a dump.

Laure