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    Trade unionists block coal shipments from PGG mines

    Trade unionists from the Polish Mining Group (PGG), demanding, among others, compensation for miners for overworked weekends and an increase in the wage fund, started on Tuesday a blockade of coal shipment from mines to power plants. The action is expected to last two days. PGG invited the unions to talks on 10 January.

    The group assures that it wants to continue talks with the trade unions with the participation of a mediator, who was appointed on Tuesday – legal adviser Malwina Strecker. Mediation with her is scheduled to begin on Jan. 10 at 11 a.m. The unions, however, declare their readiness to start negotiations right now – as they say, the PGG management is a party to the dispute, but for it to start constructive negotiations, it needs, according to the unions, “a wink of an eye from the Ministry of State Assets”.

     

    According to unofficial information, the cost of realisation of union’s wage demands is about PLN 130-140 million; trade unionists are talking about the amount of about PLN 70 million. Since 21 December, PGG has been on strike alert, and preparations are being made for a referendum on the strike. If no agreement is reached, the unions are planning further actions after January 10.

     

    “In such extremity, we will resort to go down and strike at the bottom,” Boguslaw Hutek, Head of the Mining Solidarity trade union said.

     

    The trade unionists informed about the beginning of the protest action, announced on 29 December, during a morning press briefing in Ruda Śląska on a blocked railway track near the Halemba mine. Trade union flags and a portable shelter were set up by the mine’s tracks at the exit gate, and a banner informing about strike alert was unfurled.

     

    “The miners are being heckled for once again demanding something. We’re not demanding anything; we want someone to appreciate our hard work,” Bogusław Hutek said.

     

    “In the 21st century, for some dignity, we must fight on the tracks (…). The determination is very high,” Jerzy Demski, leader of the Trade Union of Bottom Workers said, estimating that miners are ready for more radical protests.

     

    “This protest is an act of our desperation. We want nothing more than for the miners to earn a decent living on Saturdays and Sundays when they have to work extra,” Rafał Jedwabny from Sierpnia’80 added.

     

    Several dozens of people took part in the action in Halemba. The miners were also joined by representatives of Agrounia with its leader Michał Kołodziejczak, who brought bread and sausage. Food from farmers is also expected to go to protesters at other mines.

     

    “We have come with sincere greetings and support for our brother miners who work hard underground (…). We know that today they represent the interests of all Poles,” Kołodziejczak said.

     

    Representatives of the Management Board of PGG have argued in recent weeks that currently when procedures related to the creation of a system of public support for the mining industry and its notification to the European Commission are underway, the company has no possibility of releasing additional funds for payments.

     

    On 17 December, the Sejm passed an amendment to the so-called Mining Act, which assumes the implementation of a support system for hard coal mines worth PLN 28.8 billion (until 2031). Among other things, the law clarifies the rules for granting public support in the form of subsidies to reduce the production capacity of mines, provides for suspension of repayment and target redemption of some of the mining companies’ liabilities towards the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) and the Polish Development Fund (PFR), and defines the possibility of increasing their capital by issuing treasury securities. The solutions adopted in the Act require notification of the European Commission. A Senate committee will take up the bill on Tuesday. A formal notification application to the EC is also expected to be submitted in January.

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