In summer 2012, a labor struggle occurred at the Chinese electronics supplier Chung Hong in the special economic zone Kobierzyce near Wroclaw/Poland. Chung Hong produces mainboards for monitors and TVs of the South-Korean multinational corporation LG which has a factory in the same zone.
26 workers, members of Workers' Initiative from the Chung Hong were fired during a two-week strike action in June 2012. In December 2013 some of them won their case in the labor court – one worker was ordered to be reinstated and the other got a financial compensation for unfair disciplinary dismissal.
Chung Hong had claimed that the strike was illegal. After the lockout, the workers could not continue their activity in the factory, lost their wages, and the immediate unemployment benefit. Neither the welfare office nor any other state institution did provide them any help. Support came from their local supporters and an international solidarity campaign.
On December 19, 2013, three workers won their whole case and got all the compensation they had demanded (around 1,500 Euro). Their dismissal notice had to be changed, too. It is important for those workers with a long working history at Chung-Hong that their notice does not state that they got fired for disciplinary reasons. According to the judgment, it was not important whether the strike was legal or not. The employer was simply not entitled to fire workers who took part for disciplinary reasons without previous notice. The workers were not obliged to follow the instructions of the employer who claimed that the strike was illegal.
On December 30, 2013, Krzysztof Gazda was reinstated by Chung-Hong. He is the Workers' Initiative activist who was fired just before the strike, and his dismissal had sparked the strike. The court also ordered the employer to pay compensation for the whole period he was unemployed (about 600 Euros per month since June 2012).
The court stated what we all knew, and what the boss tried to hide, that Krzysztof was fired for his activity and preparation of the strike.
In his final speech in the court Krzysztof said that if he loses, that would have been a hardship not only to him, but to others who fight and strive for workers' self-organization and better living and working conditions. In Poland all those workers often face the same situaton he had to go trough.
The law-firm JP Weber that supports international investors in Poland organizationally and legally, lost this case after its long union-busting campaign during which it presented dubious evidences against the workers. However, it still may appeal against the verdict. Meanwhile, Krzysztof is ready to go back to the factory.
Few other workers are going to have their court cases in the near future. For various reasons, some other workers already agreed earlier to a settlement proposed by Chung Hong. For they withdrawal from the court case Chung Hong changed the conditions of their contract termination and paid compensation. In general, the situation is not rosy as some of the workers still have not found a job, and others do black work or work abroad. Some did find poorly paid and temporary work through a job agency – again in the same SEZ, as often those are the only employers in the region.
Special Exploitation Zones (48 min, 2013, in Polish with English, German, or Italian subtitles)
Related articles and interviews:
"We must act together, we have to show solidarity" – Voices of Chung Hong Electronics workers
"We are no machines" – Workers' Struggle in a Chinese Electronics Factory in Poland
by friends of gongchao (March 2013)
Poland: Special Exploitation Zones – interview