PROMISES FOR SILESIA
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Grzegorz Tobiszowski about a governmental plan of mining repair
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - The program of the Polish mining repair suggested by the government caused concerns in Silesia which are nearly comparable with the ones from the martial law. The prime minister excuses it with her concern about people, miners speak about destruction of the Polish mining and the whole region prepared by the government.
GRZEGORZ TOBISZOWSKI: - And they do not exaggerate. They see it for a long time that for seven years the government has not shown a minimum of a good will and its promises are not kept.
– There were rather very few particular promises…
– That is true. And if they were, it was as if they weren’t. There have not been any provisions to the act of coal certification till today, which should be prepared by the government very quickly – according to the promise of Donald Tusk – because it concerns elimination of the import of Russia coal, killing the profitability of our mines. An important act about coal trade was simply blocked. At a meeting of the Seym commission, the minister stated that he had blocked this act because it would have limited the freedom of trade…
– What is wrong in the mining act suggested by the government suddenly and so quickly?
– The Act was submitted to Seym on 7 January 2015 with omission of the path of inter-departmental decisions. What is cynical is the fact that it is directed by a parliamentarian from Bytom: is it how the government wants to show that in Silesia there is a will of closing down mines?! This Act is dangerous because it has an open character, allows for not only closing down four mines of the Coal Company, about which there are loud discussions today, but it also makes other liquidations possible.
– Governmental declarations openly deny it!
– It is not the first time when the government of the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party makes declarations which are not implemented at all; this government has improbable skill to speak about things which are very important for Poles but, already after a week, a month, it forgets about them. The prime minister Tusk told miners in Silesia last May – still before the election to the European Parliament – that the government would fight for Polish coal. And what resulted from it!? We, in Silesia, are tired of these promises and we lost our belief that the government wants the good for the Silesian district. It rather seems that it is aiming at destroying it.
– Now the government suggests a repair program for the Coal Company, one of the main employers of Silesia.
– But it is a repair through liquidation.
– There is no solution, otherwise thousands of inhabitants in Silesia will get unemployed – explains the prime minister Ewa Kopacz.
– But she does not say that it is just the government of the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party – although the prime minister Kopacz starts to separate herself from the Government of Tusk, and commentators say about ‘a cuckoo egg’ tossed to her by Tusk – which made neglects as an owner and supervisor of the Coal Company. In 2013 the Law and Justice party organized a big debate about the situation in mining which is alarmingly bad; it was when the problem of big losses in the Coal Company emerged. At that time we were said that we did not need to spread panic and that we had a political interests in it. During the debate the vice-prime minister Piechociński also reassured that not only would not there be any liquidation of mines, but that there would not be any redundancies in mining! Later it was also assured by the prime minister Tusk and minister Bieńkowska.
– And the opposition was only causing revolt?
– First of all, during meetings of Seym commissions we appealed to representatives of the government: prepare a reasonable program for Polish mining industry, on the basis of an exact audit of particular mines. From at least the year 2013 we have been warning that the problem would grow and to such an extent, that it may endanger the energetic safety of the country.
– The government was not listening, decided that the suggestions of the opposition were another sign of ‘arson’ of the country? What did you particularly suggest?
– In our opinion, it is important to connect mining industry with energetics and also a detailed economic analysis of every mine separately. Before last year self-governmental elections, we had organized a conference during which we called for a quick review of every mine, in order to evaluate its access to the lode and prepare walls, as well as the state of a machine park and the quality of the managerial staff and an organizational scheme.
– Do you think that the government is presenting the repair project today without suitable investigation of the situation?
– I think so. Only when it turned out that there is no money in budget for salaries, in November another new chairman of the Coal Company was appointed….. Moreover, we have a proxy of the government for mining industry. And now everything looks like treating a broken leg through amputation. We should have thought about the repair of mining industry much earlier when the first troubles appeared.
– Do you think that the Polish mining industry will not be successful without public help, that is, without governmental grants forbidden by the EU today?
– Demanding a possibility of such support should be treated as the Polish raison d’etat. And today we have a problem with supporting mining industry with public help because in the year 2010 the Polish government agreed to the decision of the European Council without any objections so that public help could be only for liquidation of mines, not supporting them, restructure. Minister Rostowski, expressing his opinion on this decision, did not present his critical hints, so a legal-financial instrument was introduced which allows and makes it easier to liquidate mines. This government sets fire to a barn at first, and later it shows how perfectly it extinguishes it.
– And will the barn be burnt anyway?
– Today all people in the government say: if four mines which employ a dozen thousand people are not liquidated, 50 thousand people will lose their work. This way of presenting the issue is far improper because it leads to quarrels among people and in one company! Whereas very little is said about the culprits of the situation….
– For example, about the fact that during the last seven years of the government of the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party, the Coal Company was governed even by five inept managements?
– That’s it. Those ‘managers’ led to a collapse, having a lot of salaries and, departing from their posts – gigantic million severance pay. Now it turns out that nobody is going to judge these people for their bad decisions. I would not be surprised if they were rewarded for it…..Only those are still guilty who want to work honestly and reliably.
– The prime minister still says about her concern about the fate of ordinary people, and that she wants to bring them real and effective help…
– She promised a hundred days ago that she would submit a plan of development, that she would give it to social consultations, while she forgot about a suitable debate in the parliament which is being pushed to the wall by her today. Surprisingly, just after the Christmas break, she presents a governmental plan of dividing the Coal Company, and the Seym receives a repair project made by parliamentarians of the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party, with the sudden compulsion of proceeding. Certainly, everything is in order to save Silesia…
– Is it so difficult to believe in good intentions of the government?
– It is also difficult to believe in its competences. The government suggests this division of the unprofitable Coal Company, in order to make four mines belong to an unknown energy company. Whereas four mines assigned for liquidation – Pokój, Brzeszcze, Centrum-Borek, Sośnica-Makoszowy – are to be subordinated to the process of liquidation in the Company of Mines Restructure. Other mines of the Company are to be centralized by ‘Węglokoks’, a company selling coal and capitalized by the government… Today a great unknown are particular, detailed solutions, and all these ideas are somehow suspended in vacuum – we do not know perspectives, business plans, particular ideas. Much more strange things may happen. The word ‘liquidation’ still remains guaranteed.
– If liquidation is in care about the whole mining branch, about Polish coal!
– You are kidding! If there was care about the branch, about the Silesian district, then politicians of the Civic Platform would not cause quarrels in Silesia and other regions in such a cynical way! I do not really remember any revolt caused against miners!
– It is also said that Polish coal is guilty of everything because its extraction is too difficult and too expensive for this reason.
– In the recent years - about which we have been alarming for three years – indeed the costs of extraction have been growing, and the extraction itself is dropping. It is the result of bad management and the lack of an ownership supervision which is a duty of the government.
– Maybe the best solution - as many experts say – would be privatization of mines…
– And the government is searching for private partners! Suddenly there appears a person willing to purchase the mine Brzeszcze….It is a bit strange, but probably in this collapsing mine 35 million zlotys have been recently spent on building a modern drainage station. So, well-equipped mines, with good lodes can be given to somebody for nothing now, in order to ‘save Polish mining industry’….If a mine is to be liquidated, so why to invest it? Why didn’t’ the idea of privatization appear in the governmental minds earlier, when mines could have been sold at a more useful price?
– Maybe in order to sell it at a cheaper price….Then a purchaser will be able to be announced at least for a while, as a savior of the Polish mining industry, and privatization – a medication for all kinds of evil….What will be later, nobody cares about it. I am afraid that the sale of for ridiculous amounts of money will also comprise mines directed to reforms to the Company of Mines Restructure, certainly, after paying off their debts by the State Treasury…
– Now mass media are admiring the miracle which took place with the private mine Silesia, collapsing one day. Is this miracle repeatable?
– I would rather ask another question: will private owners worry about the Polish raison d’etat in the future, as well as energy safety, or won’t they sell the mines to somebody who will have an interest in closing them down? The government does not care about it, and covers its inability with liberal dogmas about the predominance of private ownership over ownership controlled somehow by the state and for the sake of the country. This liberal carelessness of our present governing class has not competition in any European country!
– Do you think that the repair plan suggested by the government for the Coal Company is a bad sign for the whole mining industry, the whole Silesia?
– Yes, I do. In the Law and Justice party we think that it is rather a liquidation plan leading to liquidation of energetics in Poland, based on coal. After liquidation of the Coal Company, there will be liquidation of Coal Holding in Katowice, whose state is also collapsing because of the government. Therefore we speak to all economic and political groups to make the common effort in order to inhibit destruction of the Polish economy by the government of Ewa Kopacz.
– After long negotiations of the government with labour unions, there was, finally, an agreement as it was said ‘a good agreement for miners and for Poland’. The prime minister assured that thanks to this agreement, in Silesia the heart of the Polish industry would beat. Or maybe we should already be optimistic….
– This agreement does not solve issues of the whole mining industry and Silesia. Besides, isn’t it strange that it turned out so suddenly that the repair plan submitted by the government with the breach of the constitutional rule of a social dialogue, only under the pressure of great social protests can be changed into the more human one? So, was it really righteous and really good? There are many questions.