Workers at DIY retailer Castorama in Poland and their union Solidarnosc have won an important milestone in a long-standing dispute over unfair dismissals of union shop stewards. A court has found the employer to have illegally dismissed the workers after it sacked the union representatives in 2019.
“Their perseverance is made of steel and it has paid off. These workers have been put through huge turmoil. They responded by showing that workers, united, will never be defeated. Going forward, it is vital that Castorama Poland change its ways,” said Mathias Bolton, Head of UNI Commerce.
Castorama Poland’s management took the dramatic decision to dismiss all ten of the workers who had been elected to Solidarnosc’s management committee within the company. The court’s decision brings the number of reinstated trade unionists up to four, with six others still seeking reinstatement.
There was international outrage at the anti-union dismissals. Over 7,500 people signed a petition set up by UNI Commerce calling on the company to reinstate the workers. The campaign drew attention from the business and Human Rights community as well as solidarity actions from fellow retail trade unionists across the world.
✊In solidarity, we stand✊— UNI Commerce (@CommerceUni) November 24, 2020
📢UNI Commerce IKEA Trade Union Alliance extends solidarity to dismissed home retail workers in Castorama, Poland, and Falabella, Peru.
📢Commerce unions from over 30 countries call Castorama and Falabella to re-instate workers & respect union rights! pic.twitter.com/LQgDg85Rij
Signs of a less conflictual approach?
There are signs that Castorama Poland may be on a path to change. Following three years of shutting workers out, they have met with the union and declared a willingness for dialogue and cooperation.
At international level, UNI had sent a letter to the CEO of Kingfisher Group, which owns Castorama, at the time of the dismissals. Engagement has since been maintained with the company to facilitate a resolution of the dispute and to ensure workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights are respected.
“Positive labour relations are about resolving issues before they escalate. Under conditions of respect, workers and management can work together to deliver a thriving company. This is the approach that UNI and our affiliated unions will continue to seek. However, if dialogue fails UNI commerce is always prepared to work with our affiliates and take necessary action,” said Mathias Bolton.