Polish miners to escalate protests as talks with government fail

Polish miners to escalate protests as talks with government fail
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz (L) and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite talk before a round table meeting as part of a European cuncil at the EU headquarters in Brussels on October 23, 2014 in Brussels.

WARSAW - Miners from Europe's biggest coal producer Kompania Weglowa say they will intensify their protests against Poland's plans to restructure the company as negotiations with the government failed again on Monday.

The government said last week it planned to shut down four of Kompania Weglowa's 14 mines in the south of Poland, leaving some 5,000 workers without jobs.

Protests began last week in the four mines earmarked for closure and workers from four other mines followed suit on Monday when Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz went to Katowice, the heart of the southern Silesia industrial region.

Kopacz revived talks with KW's trade unions after an initial first round of negotiations failed during the weekend. Unionists said they had been offended by a government representative calling them "clowns".

But the new talks, which ended late on Monday, failed to make a breakthrough. "We parted in an atmosphere (suggesting) that the proposal we made is still on the table," the government statement quoted Kopacz as saying after the meeting.

The trade unions representatives, who want to keep all the pits open, said that the solutions presented by the government provided no hope for the four mines 12 months down the line. "Negotiations will be revived, but it is not known when,"the unions' statement said, adding that decisions will be made on Monday concerning an escalation of the protests.

The four mines destined for closure employ some 11,000 workers and generated a 1.9-billion zloty ($525.6 million) loss over the past three years, hit by rising operating costs and falling coal prices.

KW employs a total 49,000 people, accounting for around half of all workers in the country's mining sector.

Under the plan announced last week, KW's remaining nine mines will be transferred to state-run coal trader Weglokoks. Most of the firm's staff will be given jobs in the new company, while the rest will be offered severance payment.

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