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Slovakia solidarity appeal:
Workers sacked for organising wage protest
THE MANAGEMENT of the Austrian based multinational Neusiedler in Ruzomberok, a town in central Slovakia, has handed out redundancy notices to workers involved in organising a new trade union.
The decision to break away from the existing KOZ trade union came after workers took the initiative to launch a petition for higher wages. Slovak workers earn about one-third of what is paid in the Hungarian sister company and about one eighth of what is being paid in Austria. One of the factory meetings demanding higher wages was attended by 300 workers.
Over the last two years the Slovak government has implemented a brutal neo-liberal 'shock therapy'. To attract foreign investment they have introduced a flat tax on income, corporate profits and retail sales of 19%, partly privatised the pension system and raised the retirement age from 58 for women with children and 60 for men, to 62 years for everyone.
Overall unemployment in Slovakia stands at 16% and the national average income is about €250 (or £174) a month. Near the capital Bratislava, however, average incomes are about 90% of the EU level, a sign of how a very rapid gap between a very rich minority and a poor majority of the population has developed since the re-introduction of capitalism, now accelerated by EU membership.
The petition that demanded a wage increase of 50 SK per hour (1.25 Euro or £0.80) has been signed by 1,223 workers. Factory management reacted by sacking the organisers of this action and the official KOZ trade union threatened workers that signing the petition could mean provoking "legal action" against them.
As a reaction to the outright betrayal of the official trade union, workers have begun building a new trade union, called OOZ Papier. Last weekend the new organisation had unionised 1,000 workers in the Neusiedler plant.
OOZ Papier is organising solidarity from other factory and public service workers in the city and is preparing for city-wide actions or possibly strikes to widen the struggle. Organisers of OOZ Papier have invited Socialisticka alternativa Budoucnost, the CWI affiliate in the Czech Republic, to participate in their struggle.
Please write protest letters and organise local actions to end the scandalous treatment of Neusiedler workers by the company bosses. We demand the immediate reinstatement of the sacked workers in Ruzomberok, an end to poverty pay, full trade union rights and the official recognition of the OOZ Papier trade.
The Neusiedler multinational has paper mills in Austria, Hungary, Israel, Russia and South Africa. They have sales offices throughout Europe including in Britain. Addresses, telephone numbers and email adresses for all plants and sales offices can be found at www.neusiedler.com
- Please send a copy of protest letters to Socialisticka alternativa Budoucnost [email@example.com] and to firstname.lastname@example.org
In The Socialist 13 November 2004:
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