Bus manufacturing workers in Poland on strike for wage increase

While the bus manufacturer Solaris is reaping record profits, the salaries of employees with 15 years of work experience remains under minimum wage

January 26, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Solaris workers on strike Photo: Adrian Zandberg

On January 24, Monday, workers of the transport vehicle manufacturer Solaris Bus & Coach company in Bolechów in Poland began a strike to demand an increase in their wages. The strike has been called for by the OPZZ Confederation of Labor, among others, following several months of negotiations and a strike referendum in which 92% of employees voted in favor of the strike. The striking workers have demanded a gross salary increase worth PLN 800 (197.04 USD).

Left-wing parliamentarians Adrian Zandberg and Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk of the Lewica Razem party visited the workers on Monday to express their solidarity and support to the striking workers. The Lewica Razem party itself and progressive organizations such as Red Front have also rallied behind the workers.

According to reports, since September last year, the union has been negotiating with the Solaris management for a pay raise for employees, an amount of PLN 800 gross (197.04 USD). However, the company has insisted on an increase of just 5% for all employees and an additional PLN 450 (110.83 USD) gross with bonuses for experienced employees and PLN 650 (160.09 USD) gross with bonuses for foremen.

Solaris, owned by a Spanish firm CAF, is the largest city bus producer in Poland and a leading producer of electric buses in Europe. In 2020, the company achieved a record profit of PLN 108.5 million (26.72 million USD) and record revenues of PLN 3.08 billion (0.76 billion USD).

The OPZZ Confederation of Labor stated that “the workers went on strike because the working conditions at Solaris are very difficult. In workers’ positions, a lot of knowledge and experience in manual labor is needed. The work is hard. The employer has the ambition to build the best buses in Europe. At the same time, employees’ wages can be only PLN 2900-3000. Some workers earn better, but they are still wages that do not give a chance for financial satisfaction and a sense of social security. When a company records profits at the level of PLN 100 million, the remuneration of an employee with 15 years of work experience around PLN 3,000 is simply unacceptable.”

While addressing the striking workers of Solaris on Monday, Adrian Zandberg when visiting the workers stated that “in many industries, big companies are making record profits today. Time to share these with the employees. Here, in Bolechów, and all over Poland!”

“We came to Solaris so that companies don’t come up with stupid ideas. The right to strike, the right to a worthy wage is the constitutional right of every employee! This strike erupted because the company didn’t want to talk about serious increases. Now he will lose to unnecessary sting. Let this be a lesson to others. I hope the company authorities will sit down for serious talks with the crew. It will all pay off,” he added.