Inicjatywa Pracownicza (IP, Workers' Initiative) was formed in Poland in 2001 first as an informal group of worker activists willing to unite and fight at their own workplaces and to support other workers' struggle. In September 2004, IP was established as a formal but independent and grass-roots trade union, seeing itself in the anarcho-syndicalist and revolutionary syndicalism tradition. Inicjatywa Pracownicza build on self-organization of workers and radical democracy without bureaucracy and leaders on permanent post. Creation of IP was a reaction to crisis of the Polish official union movement – to its bureaucracy, passivity and links with the anti-social and anti-workers governments.
IP sections includes three types: (1) formed by workers from the same company; (2) by workers from different companies and industries; (3) local section by workers, students or unemployed, from one city or region. Sections are self-organized and run their activity autonomously. IP has a national committee, elected every two years by the congress of section delegates. In March 2013, the 8th national congress of delegates took place.
IP gathers workers from various industries – e.g. the health service (hospitals, kindergartens), the shipyard industry (e.g. Cegielski factory in Poznan), public administration, art and culture workers (in 3 theaters, a public gallery and freelancers) –, precarious workers, like those from temporary agencies, students and unemployed. In 2009, the group “Women with Initiative” was found with a focus on the struggle and situation of female workers.
Today, there are around 20 IP-sections and dozens of individual members in Warsaw, Poznan, Kostrzyn, Krakow, Opole and others. Many IP members have faced repression by bosses, and often were dismissed. IP defends them in the labor courts, but it's main tools of activity are direct actions, pickets and leafleting.
Inicjatywa Pracownicza organize workplace activity, but also join larger mobilizations and protests, and runs campaigns outside the workplaces through direct actions, leaflets, publications, and conferences, educational events. The union publishes "Workers' Initiative"-bulletin (distributed in 5,000 copies free of charge) and a series of manuals on labor, union and strike laws (including solidarity strikes).
Main topics of campaigns in recent years were: changes in the labor law, right to strike, the situation of Polish migrant workers, rights of the employees of temporary agencies and other precarious workers. In 2013 IP organized or actively supported (1) a demonstrationin Gorzow (West Poland) demanding unpaid salaries of hospital workers in Kostrzyn and the stop of the privatization of health services [see pictures]; (2) a Mayday demonstration in Wroclaw under the slogan "Poland: Special Exploitation Zone"; (3) an hours-long picket on the first anniversary of the strike at the Chung Hong Electronics factory near Wroclaw [see pictures]; and (4) a mobilization during the "days of protest" in September in Warsaw (where we co-organized an anti-capitalist bloc under the slogan "Time for a General Strike") [see pictures].
IP engages also in struggles of social movements: in Warsaw and Poznan we support local "Right to Housing" organizations of tenants, help blocking evictions, and fight against rent increases, aggressive landlords, and the banks behind them. We support independent social centers, feminist and antifascist movement.
Outside Poland, IP has a regular exchange within the “Red and Black Coordination” of anarcho-syndicalist trade unions. IP tries to support major self-organized workers' struggles, militant syndicates, and groups of workers and worker activists.
The general rules of IP:
1 | internal
The Workers' Initiative Trade Union is a voluntary organization, where my fate depends on your commitment and vice versa. None of the law articles are more effective than interpersonal solidarity and mutual friendship between us, both in the work and private life. We appreciate own initiative, communication skills, cooperation, assistance and direct criticism. IP is therefore a type of union that demand. We do not accept spying and dominance born out of lack of knowledge of others comrades, lack of skills or others' mistakes. Here is no place for passivity and trust that others will do the job for me.
In Workers' Initiative everyone is equal, regardless of functions we are performing, education and earnings. We understand trade union functions as a duty for the other man, not as a reason for the contempt and humiliation of others, or the possibility of sitting in the comfortable armchair under the wing of the management. We are independent of employers in our actions. A lot of IP local committies decided to not to use so-called trade union privileges, because they often became a reason for enslaving trade unions. We don't want trade union jobs, offices, phones, faxes from employers. We try to collect donations ourselves. We do not spend social funds on organizing holiday for workers. Trade unions working that way are too often actless. Their activists are getting used to comfort and it is hard for them to resign when are they bacame not interested in defending workers anymore. Our principles give us the advantage over bureaucratic unions, as employers do not know how many we are and who is involved in. They cannot reach us, cannot corrupt us, because we want nothing from bosses. The IP of course use the Labour Code, but treats it as the weapon, especially when employers victimise workers and trade unionists.
2 | external
Workers today are often unorganized, divided, have no contact with each other, are being intimidated and deprived of their faith in their own strength. Trade unions are losing their importance. Such a situation is beneficial for employers, who without any restrictions exploit workers, using the protection of the state administration and state coercive measures. Alliance (often of corruption character) between the political and economical power is aimed against all workers. Its purpose is to maintain social divisions. Rich, privileged in every respect minority has the property, the power and means of indoctrination, and is thriving and accumulating its wealth through the work of the majority. Such a hierarchical social structure is the cause of most problems experienced in daily life by workers around the world, affected by massive unemployment, reduction of wages, return to the slave labour, child labour, poverty and hunger.
The interest of bosses, of both transnational corporations and small enterprises, is to strengthen the existing order, which gives them freedom to exploit workers and local communities. The real change can come only when workers no longer believe that their employers, multicorporation owners and managers act in the interest of society.
We are struggling for regaining the control over our life, both in the places we work and live. We are struggling for a completely different world, because we are convinced that capitalism, like state socialism, can not be reformed. Deep social, economic and political changes are needed.
Our movement is also a response to extremely political corrupted and politically-oriented trade unions. We must reject the need for the leaders existence - too often they have betrayed the cause that they initially were fighting for. We are for grass-roots, direct democracy from below as a form of organising workers' protest. The goal of Workers' Initiative (IP) is not to supervise the struggle of workers but only to motivate them/us to independent struggle for the improvement of living conditions and liberation from oppression of any power.
We declare against political action and using workers' movement for political goals and current interests of political parties. We support involvement of workers' movement in local struggles aiming at restoring authentic self-governance. We regard essential the international solidarity of union and worker movement. We are in favour of direct action, especially demonstrations, strikes and boycotts as the most effective, but not the only weapon in the fight for labour rights and radical democratic society. We see that there is a great need to restore also the cultural autonomy of labor, as a counterbalance for mass-culture and a consumer lifestyle offered by it.
The Workers' Initiative is an alliance of all for whom workers' matters are close. We are a standing up for workers' rights, reffering in our activity and ideas directly to the tradition of anarcho-syndicalist movement. Those organized in IP undertake efforts to create the workers' movement based on the grass-roots and voluntary autonomy - the movement that would be able to go beyond the divisions between workers and be able to successfully struggle for their/our rights and for a full control of work places. By active involvement in protest campaigns, cooperation and by suppor for strikes we try to bring solidarity help and actively present our ideas.
IP is functioning on the principles of federation, i.e. voluntary organization of persons in which every participant has equal right to decide about affairs concerning him/her. Anyone who accepts the statements above can be an IP participant.