International Week Against Unpaid Wages 2021 in 17 countries

Week_2021_no_lines_IG_en_smallThis year’s “Week” was accompanied by activities in at least 17 countries. IWA organizations informed about the Week in various ways – some took actions in the streets, some mobilized and prepared for conflicts, some shared experience from their conflicts, and some simply published and spread the information the statement. Let’s evaluate this year’s Week.

Evaluation of the second International Week Against Unpaid Wages

It’s good to see that the number of participating organizations grew since the last year (see report here: https://iwa-ait.org/content/international-week-against-unpaid-wages-supported-unions-14-countries-0). In one way or another 16 out of 20 currently existing organizations of the IWA took part in the Week and information was published in at least 6 languages (English, German, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish).

However, the most important thing about the Week is its practical aspect. In this sense, it was great to hear from ASI in Serbia that, based on their promotion of the Week, workers with unpaid wages got in touch with them and showed a will to fight back. The first conflict has already ended up in a victory. In connection with the Week, PA in Slovakia was also contacted by a worker and the union spent the period preparing a conflict that turned into a fast victory. PA also prepared an English version of a pamphlet dealing with unpaid wages that could help other organizations to start their own campaigns. WAS in Austria used the opportunity of the Week to inform about their recent victory in a wage conflict that started exactly during last year’s Week. CNT-AIT in Spain took to the streets and showed solidarity with comrades in struggle. ZSP in Poland shared experience from several struggles they had since last year and NSF in Norway provided as well. KRAS in Russia wrote a remarkably detailed report on the situation in Russia and Ukraine.

More details from around the world:

AUSTRIA

Wiener ArbeiterInnen-Syndikat (WAS, Vienna Workers Syndicate) wrote a summary of their only conflict related to unpaid wages so far (WAS had several successful conflicts in the last couple of years, but mostly related to working conditions and dismissals). The conflict with companies Seamox and SThree lasted from June 2020 until September 2021. The worker was a CNT-AIT Spain member that moved to Vienna for the job and was not paid. It was a case of fictitious self-employment with IT company Seamox, itself just a link in a chain of subcontractors trying to recruit workers for a large Austrian telecom company and bypass Austrian social security and tax system. In June 2021, after several smaller protest actions against Seamox, a bigger demonstration was called in front of SThree. Suddenly, the company wanted to solve the conflict quickly. The day before the demo the worker received a valid contract and at the beginning of September he got the owed money (4730 € including his social security) plus money spent on six flights to Vienna was paid as well. The whole story can be read here (in German): https://wiensyndikat.wordpress.com/2021/10/17/lohnraub-bei-seamox-sthree-erfolgreich-verhindert/.

NORWAY

Norsk Syndikalistisk Forbund (NSF, Norwegian Syndicalist Federation) wrote about two conflicts (in services and retail) that involved their members in Oslo and also stressed out the service orientation of the centralized official trade unions that gets in the way of independent, direct action of workers. The unity that is decisive has to be built and the official trade union form mostly tends to be an obstacle. In both of the examples the NSF mentions that the workers were divided and passive at first. However, eventually, they managed to meet in their spare time and create a new social environment which included supporting each other in matters that also concerned their lives outside the job. The unity that grew out of this helped them to collectively demand ending of discriminative wage differences, to which the managements of both workplaces had to give in. More info in Norwegian: https://nsf-iaa.org/readpost.php?post=1634131895.txt.

POLAND

Związek Syndykalistów Polski (ZSP, Union of Syndicalists of Poland), same as the last year, wrote about their conflicts, especially in services and retail, and how thrash contracts typical of Poland affect the working and living conditions of workers. The union also prepared a survey for workers of the Żabka chain which is notorious for non-payment of wages and bad working conditions. You can find the ZSP report in English here: https://iwa-ait.org/content/zsp-continues-take-action-against-unpaid-wages.

RUSSIA

Konfederatsiya Revolyutsionnykh Anarkho-sindikalistov (KRAS, Confederation of Revolutionary Anarcho-Syndicalists) was not able to participate in the streets due to pandemic restrictions and ban on demonstrations but wrote an extensive report on workers struggles for unpaid wages in Russia and Ukraine in 2021. You can read the English version here: https://iwa-ait.org/content/report-struggles-unpaid-wages-russia-and-ukraine-2021.

SERBIA

Anarhosindikalistička Inicijativa (ASI, Anarchosyndicalist Initiative) has engaged in the propaganda campaign in which it informed the workers in Serbia about the Week. ASI pointed out various forms of the unpaid wages - unpaid salaries and overtime work, inadequately paid night, Sunday and holiday shifts, as well as the absence of the right to vacation and sick leave. ASI appealed to workers to get in touch and fight for their money. This appeal proved to be fruitful and ASI reported that many people contacted them, and already fight of one worker who was unpaid for her work in Belgrade restaurant has been won by ASI action. ASI is now preparing, together with workers that contacted them, for opening of other conflicts with bosses who refuse to pay. Also, surroundings of some shops known for wage related problems were spray-painted with protest messages.

SLOVAKIA

Priama Akcia (PA, Direct Action) took part in the following ways:
• Experience sharing and tips from conflicts related mostly to unpaid wages. English version of a pamphlet called “How We Coped With Problems At Work. Conflicts of Priama Akcia union in 2015-2019” was prepared. It can be downloaded in several formats here: https://priamaakcia.sk/Pamphlet-about-conflicts-of-Priama-Akcia-union-in-English-language.html. The pamphlet provides a detailed description of conflicts in all their stages. It contains photos from actions, interviews with the workers, leaflets and a short analysis of hospitality sector where most of the conflicts took place. Another publication that was promoted during the Week was an updated version of PA’s pamphlet dedicated to Temporary Student Work (Slovak version: https://www.priamaakcia.sk/Ides-na-brigadu-Skusenosti-a-tipy-ako-so-sebou-nenechat-zametat-2021-.html).
• Online appeal to workers with unpaid wages to get in touch or write about positive experience from their fights with the bosses.
• Spreading of information from other IWA organizations.

Only a few days before the start of the Week, a worker contacted PA and wanted to fight for her unpaid wages, so the union put its focus on the preparations for the conflict. After the boss was visited in the workplace by the worker accompanied by PA comrades and more than a dozen of other supporters, he paid the owed money within the given deadline (within 8 days), making it the fastest solving conflict of the union so far. See detailed report in English with and an interview with the worker here: https://priamaakcia.sk/Priama-Akcia-union-succeeds-in-another-conflict-over-unpaid-remuneration-an-interview-with-a-worker-.html.

SPAIN

Some unions of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT-AIT, National Confederation of Labour), for example in Granada, Albacete or Hellín, besides promoting the Week online and pointing out to the general problem which is the wage system, also took actions in the streets and supported workers in their conflicts with bosses. One example is the conflict of a CNT-AIT comrade from Barcelona union with company CEX that goes beyond the usual non-payment of wages – it is related also to monitoring of employees or pressure on workers interested in joining the union. In Albacete, the union also highlighted general issues like falsification of pay slips, violation of workers rights, non-recognition of professional categories etc. More info in Spanish: https://cntaitalbacete.es/2021/10/sindical-acciones-durante-la-semana-de-lucha-internacional-contra-el-impago-de-salarios-en-cex/.

In Madrid, several groups of the Local Federation of the CNT-AIT visited seven Burger King establishments to inform the workers about the sentence that the Social Court n.3 of Albacete issued on 22nd September in a trial that the union opened against the multinational. „Many Burger King workers showed great interest in what we told them and were able to share the posters and leaflets we brought with their colleagues. We had time to talk to many of them about the abuses they suffer in a generalised way. ... Burger King is a company that not only makes its shareholders millionaires through the sale of junk food, but part of its profits come from the exploitation of its workers, with non-payment of wages, non-payment of compensation for dismissals and for systematic breaches of working conditions, etc.” More info in Spanish: https://cntmadrid.org/impago-salarios-burger-king/

USA

Workers’ Solidarity Alliance (WSA) informed about the Week via social media. Same as in 2020, they prepared their own statement that deals with specifics of the USA and points out to issues like working off the clock, stealing tips, not paying overtime, or misclassifying workers.

The IWA organizations participated in this year’s Week also in these countries:

• AUSTRALIA: Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (ASF)
• BANGLADESH: Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (BASF)
• COLOMBIA: Unión Libertaria Estudiantil y del Trabajo (ULET, Libertarian Union of Students And Workers)
• GERMANY: Anarcho-Syndikalistisches Netzwerk (ASN, Anarchosyndicalist Network), while not a part of the IWA, ASN shares the same principles.
• CHILE: Solidaridad Obrera (SO, Workers’ Solidarity)
• PAKISTAN: Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF)
• PHILIPPINES: Mapagpalayang Kapatiran (MK, Liberating Comradeship)
• SWEDEN: Örestad Lokala Samorganisation (ÖLS, Örestad Local Selforganisation)
• UK: Solidarity Federation (SF)

International Week Against Unpaid Wages was established by the International Workers’ Association (IWA) to highlight the phenomenon of unpaid wages and how we can fight it in the anarchosyndicalist manner. We remind this issue since 2020, and struggle against it all year long.

The evaluation was compiled by Priama Akcia,
Slovak section of the IWA/AIT

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