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Anti-Union Drive Intensifies at PepsiCo Poland: Union Chairman Sacked, Company Still Refuses to Address Sexual Harassment

Posted to the IUF website 12-Jan-2006

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Management at PepsiCo's Frito-Lay snack food plant in Grodzisk, Poland (near Warsaw) intensified its attacks on the Food Workers Secretariat of NSZZ Solidarnosc by sacking the union secretary on December 14. This latest anti-union aggression comes amidst growing support in Poland and internationally for the victims of sexual harassment at the plant.

Union Chairman Slawomir Zagrajek was dismissed in response to an attack on the union in the tabloid "Super Express" which alleged that the union has fewer members than it claims and that the chairman therefore illegally benefited from his salary as a full-time union official. Owing to the anti-union climate in the plant, where management has refused for years to negotiate a renewal of the collective agreement and a climate of fear prevails, the union has regularly collected dues rather than relying on a check-off system. Management quickly responded to the tabloid article by bringing in a team (including a notary) to extract statements from all employees confirming their membership in the union. Though the statements have not been made available to union representatives (who contested the procedure because it is illegal and designed to intimidate workers), the company claims the results are consistent with the "findings" of the tabloid article, and it promptly sacked union chairman Zagrajek.

This egregious violation of trade union rights is not the first at the plant. With international support, the union continues to contest the victimization of eight women workers who were victims or witnesses of sexual harassment by one of the supervisors and who were fired or forced to resign in December 2004 (click here for background). All eight of these women were union members. The viciously anti-union climate at the plant explains why union members are unwilling to disclose their union membership.

Local plant management and PepsiCo corporate headquarters have refused to acknowledge their responsibility for the systematic sexual harassment which prevailed at the plant and have so far refused to negotiate the reinstatement of the victimized women workers - while continuing to support the legal defense of their former supervisor. When the IUF protested Zagrajek's illegal dismissal to the newly-elected Polish Prime Minister, the government responded by�forwarding the letter to the head of Frito-Lay Poland, who in a communication to the IUF has denied that workers were induced to disclose their union membership, though that is precisely what happened.

The IUF is initiating complaints against the government of Poland at the ILO for violating international Conventions on non-discrimination and workers' right to join a union. We are also investigating ways of stepping up international pressure directly on parent company PepsiCo.