Approximately 2,000 coal miners in Silesia, southern Poland were joined by their families and local residents in underground protests on 8 January against government plans to close four mines in the region. The mines all belong to the state-owned Kompania Weglowa S.A., Europe’s largest coal producer.
The government decision on 7 February to close the mines and cut jobs will have painful consequences for workers and residents in mining communities.
Polish miners, who insist the collieries could be profitable and have large coal deposits, are demanding a major restructuring of the entire coal sector which provides Poland with a key source of power, heat and energy security.
Miners, trade unions and local authorities had to learn of the plan to cut thousands of jobs through the media and had no prior consultation, discussion or social dialogue. Furthermore, over the last two years the government has appeared willing to restructure the coal industry, and has made no mention of closing the mines.
The announcement sparked spontaneous protests among the affected mining crews, supported by administrative staff and colleagues from all mines.
Poland’s Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz travelled to the Silesia region to talk to the demonstrating miners. However, negotiations have broken down, and with no agreement in sight, it is unknown when talks will continue.
IndustriALL Global Union’s director of mining Glen Mpufane said:
Together with IndustriALL Europe we support the actions of our comrades in Poland whose future is in the balance. We urge the government to come to an agreement with the trade unions to safeguard thousands of jobs.