Herrschaftsfreie Basisgewerkschaft – Österreichische Sektion der IAA

Gagarin FAQ

In Antirassismus, ArbeiterInnenkämpfe Ö, Arbeitsrecht, Arbeitszeit, English, Feminismus, Gastronomie on 27. Mai 2022 at 23:06

Dieser Artikel auf Deutsch

As we promised in our last article, we would like to give an answer to the most important questions and concerns that have been arising the last weeks. Here you go!

  1. Why are you asking for compensation?

A lot of people were supportive that we publicly questioned the working conditions in Gagarin, but    more reluctant about the compensation. We want to stress that we are not interested in a statement war but in proper material change in favour of the life of our union members and all workers. Additionally, our union members’ efforts of two and a half years working there and starting an internal process that changed the situation a bit, but did not manage to go to the root of the problem – the exploitation – convinced us even more that further steps are needed in this case. Besides, the amount we are asking for our comrade may seem large to some. However, it is in the ridiculous range of 167 euros divided to the months she was working there. This is the absolute minimum, payed holidays, 13. + 14. payment, sickleave.

  1. Does anyone profit from Gagarin? How compensation affects the other workers?

Apart from a couple of privileges collective members have, for example choosing shifts before other workers, or taking on paid extra tasks, nobody profits financially from Gagarin. However, being the de facto bosses of Gagarin in terms of decision making, they do profit power over the place and over other workers, as well as status in the general Viennese leftist scene. In this context, we hope other springer_innen of Gagarin, as well as other workers in gastronomy, get motivated to understand their minimum rights and embrace their power of self-determination.

  1. My friend, „Patrizia Müller“ was working there, and she didn’t experience any sexism or racism. How is it possible?

If the internal task division and working structures of the Café are structurally sexist (division of tasks along gender roles, forcing women to do most of the invisible labour) and racist (separation of Austrian/German collective and migrant springer_innen) – it does not really matter what your friend „Patrizia“ personally thinks about it. Additionally, people didn’t take responsibility for sexist and anti eastern-european racist behaviour that our comrade experienced and that „Patrizia“ may or may not have witnessed. Also pro tipp: quoting some other marginalized friend’s opinion never erases a person’s experience. And finally once again; all this is not about the – in Vienna well known game – to identify and exclude single persons, but about structural failure in a business with working places.

  1. Why did you target Gagarin and not some other restaurant?

We did not choose this struggle! We don’t do „activism“ or look for fields of activity, but we fight with our members where they are exploited in order to improve their situation in real terms. Yes, the conditions at McDonald’s are also bad (but actually more correct than at Gagarin), but we only take action there if our members organise there. It’s really a shame that we have to explain this.
By the way, this Sunday there is the possibility to support a struggle of two comrades at the capitalist café Le Firin five blocks away from Gagarin!

  1. I heard the working conditions were transparent to everybody, and everyone chose to work there under these circumstances. Why are you complaining then?

If you don’t like it, just leave” – it seems very simple. In the end, it’s about your individual decision. However, this is pure neoliberal boss logic and doesn’t take into account the constraints that wage workers, especially migrants face if they quit their jobs. This shouldn’t be a serious argument in the context of working struggles, coming from anyone who even vaguely defines themself as a leftist.
The Gagarin must recognise that – with whatever internal constructs – the basics of the (bourgeois) minimum standard fought for by the working class must not be undermined! This is a principle of any effort to improve the economic relations of dependence. But what happens in Gagarin is that these are simply negated. Coupled with the apparently real ignorance of what labour rights actually are, this is a very dangerous situation. Not getting paid when you are sick, no 13th and 14th wages, no paid holidays etc. are absolute no-goes when you have workers! Otherwise you have to organise such a project on a voluntary basis if it doesn’t work commercially.

  1. The collective had a three days long klausur to discuss internal hierarchies as well as racism and sexism reproduced in the group. Why do you have to make public accusations if they apparently made an effort to work on these issues?

The klausur, that took place at the end of 2021, was originally planned to be attended only by the collective members. Since the atmosphere in Gagarin was unbearable due to interpersonal and structural racist and sexist mechanisms, some of the springer_innen were insisting on attending the klausur and having mediation. Our comrade was one of them. She was also raising money to cover the mediation. During this klausur, the collective and the springer_innen of Gagarin did discuss about hierarchies and other forms of oppression. They did decide to eliminate the separation between collective and springer_innen, and to redesign the old structure. Nonetheless, some of the collective members were very reluctant about this decision and boycotted it in the semi-formal setting of the weekly collective plenums. Responsibilities were never redistributed, but stayed with the same people. Consequently – as one of the collective members publicly claimed later – “the structure is the same, it’s only called differently”.

  1. Didn’t they use the money for a solidary system for the workers?

Just for the sake of clarifying facts: there have been elements of solidary economy in Café Gagarin. However, they were all very untransparent, limited and because of hierarchies and unequal power relationships not everyone felt the same way entitled to them.
Other than that, we find it very problematic to argue against the minimum standards with a hardly functional solidary system. Nobody needs a common kassa of a couple of hundred euros, if they have the possibility to receive sick leave in case they are sick.

  1. I am going to this place for 10 years and I love it. Why do you want to destroy it?

Nobody wants to endanger Gagarin. We are asking for a minimum amount of compensation, which is very small regarding what would be possible. Scorched earth would be a completely different calibre. If we wanted to, we would go straight to the labour court with a claim of over 30,000 euros. But from the very beginning we are trying to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone. Thus, we kindly ask you to reconsider, if you really want to prevent workers struggle for liveable conditions with your personal consumer decisions.

  1. Shouldn’t we, as the left unite, instead of splitting for minor reasons?

Café Gagarin does not represent the left the same way as a social centre or a self-organised, non-commercial collective space does. It’s a commercial bar, with the elements of solidary economy, and – rather failed – attempts of replacing bosses with a flat, non-hierarchal structure of worker self-organisation. We cannot stop emphasizing that some people are working there for survival, they make their living out of it! In this context, we find it pretty cynical to call exploitative working conditions a minor reason.

  1. Why didn’t you give Gagarin more time to react? What are your plans if the collective decides not to pay the compensation?

The time frame is not particularly tight. What many people don’t seem to realise is that if there has been no payment by then, we have to file a claim with the Labour Court in exactly five weeks. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary in order to be able to file the claim at all, in case everyone at Gagarin continues to set themselves up as „untraceable“.
Unfortunately, despite claims to the contrary, there has been no „offer of talks“ from the Gagarin to the WAS. They only invited us for tax consultancy in the 18th district in three weeks, … it seems we must continue to seek the conversation, …

…and that is what we will do. We will stand up for our comrade consistently and in solidarity, even if the project itself had intentions worth supporting in the past. The spontaneous solidarities at this first larger rally, for example from Swiss Wobblies, prove us right in this matter.

Artikel veröffentlicht am 27. Mai 2022 auf wiensyndikat.wordpress.com. Kopieren mit Quellverweis möglich.

  1. […] FAQ – Deutsch (27.05.2022)Gagarin FAQ – English […]

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