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200 Polish miners occupy company headquarters

17 November, 2014Two hundred Polish miners are occupying the headquarters of the European Union’s largest thermal coal producer in protest at plans to liquidate the firm.

Liquidation of Polish mining giant, Kompania Weglowa S.A. (KW), would threaten the jobs of more than 46,000 workers employed by the state-owned company.

The protesting miners, which include members from IndustriALL Global Union affiliates KADRA and Solidarnosc, have been camped out in the company’s Katowice-based offices since last Thursday.

They are refusing to leave until they can meet and hold talks with representatives from the Labour Ministry.

They want the Polish government to intervene and save the company, which has already been under a restructuring plan to reduce the workforce by 26,000 employees.  Over ten thousand jobs have been shed in the past two years.

However, last week KW’s CEO, Miroslaw Taras, told union representatives that he had been unable to obtain finance for restructuring the company after plans to raise millions of dollars by issuing eurobonds fell through.

The CEO told unionists that his only option to save the company was to dismiss mining crews and liquidate several mines. He also said that he had returned from the Polish capital Warsaw without any government support.

The company faced a similar financial crisis ten years ago. The government came to the rescue after miners occupied KW’s headquarters.

“The situation of workers is very tense and requires a strong response and specific actions on the side of the government,” said Marek Gacka, Vice President of the KADRA Alliance. “Let’s hope that the situation will end positively for Kompania Weglowa’s employees. We promise that we will stay here to the very end.”

A statement published today by a coalition of Polish unions, criticized the government over its inaction and for downplaying the problems at KW.