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One Strike Settled, but Polish Labor Unrest Continues

April 30, 1988

KRAKOW, Poland (AP) _ Steel workers at one plant ended a one-day strike today, but organizers said 16,000 others remained on strike in a larger mill in Poland’s severest labor unrest in six years.

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa told the government not to use force to break up striking workers.

The labor crisis, now in its sixth day, is the most serious to confront communist authorities since they declared martial law in December 1981 and banned the independent Solidarity labor federation. The new strike wave began Monday, when bus and trolley drivers won a 60 percent wage increase with an 11-hour stoppage in the northwestern city of Bydgoszcz.

Walesa, the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told regional Solidarity chiefs to organize protests and work stoppages if the government sends security forces against strikers.

″I am warning against the return to the policy of terror, which is apparently supposed to defend reforms, while in reality it defends the way of governing which has led Poland to ruin,″ he said in a statement read Friday by an aide over the telephone from Walesa’s apartment in the northern port of Gdansk.

Opposition sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said workers from the giant Lenin shipyards in Gdansk, textile plants in Lodz, and workers in Szczecin and at least two other cities warned they would stop work if force was used at the two steel mills.

The state-run PAP news agency said about 7,000 strikers stopped striking today and left the Stalowa Wola plant 100 miles east of Krakow in southern Poland.

It said there had been no negotiations between the management and strikers.

But Grzegorz Surdy, a Solidarity activist in Krakow, said, ″They (the management) gave in to all their financial demands.″

They had demanded a $50 monthly pay raise, reinstatement of coal allowances and release and reinstatement of three Solidarity activists, detained after Solidarity’s call for the strike.

The agency said the strikers would lose pay for the time they stopped work but mentioned no other action against them. The plant’s management on Friday threatened to fire all strikers.

The government has been moving to stem unrest on Sunday, which is May Day. The international Labor Day is traditionally celebrated by the government and used by Polish workers to air their grievances publicly.

On Friday, police in Warsaw detained Jacek Kuron, a leading opposition intellectual, and six other Solidarity leaders, union spokesman Zbigniew Romaszewski said today in the capital. That brought to at least 33 the number of opposition activists taken into custody across Poland since Thursday.

Also today, four labor leaders were released from government custody. Joanna Onyszkiewicz, wife of Solidarity spokesman Janusz Onyszkiewicz, said her husband and Warsaw Solidarity leader Zbigniew Bujak were driven to Warsaw by police from Lublin and released.

The two were detained Thursday in Lublin, northeast of Stalowa Wola.

In Warsaw, two former underground Solidarity leaders were released from prison today and taken to an airport for a flight to Rome, but relatives said they refused to leave the country.

Kornel Morawiecki and Andrzej Kolodziej were then driven back to Warsaw’s Rakowiecka prison. They had been released in a secret deal between Roman Catholic and communist authorities, the relatives said.

In the southern city of Krakow, transport workers failed to heed a Solidarity call for a strike today to support stoppages for more pay and union rights by workers who had occupied the two steel mills - one in the Krakow suburb of Nowa Huta; the smaller one in Stalowa Wola, 100 miles to the east.

Romaszewski said transport workers had postponed plans for a strike today in Plock, an important petrochemical center in central Poland.

Solidarity spokesman Grzegorz Surdyk in Krakow said one shift of the 5,000- worker steel mill in Bochnia, just east of Krakow, staged a brief strike Friday but later suspended their action. He said they would resume the stoppage Monday if the Nowa Huta strike is not settled.

Prices have risen 42 percent so far this year because the government reduced subsidies on many consumer items as part of a program to make the sagging economy more market-oriented.

Labor Minister Ireneneusz Sekula said Friday the government would soon announce tax law changes and other measures that would allow enterprises to meet growing worker pressure for higher pay. He gave no details.

Three times in postwar Poland - in 1956, 1970 and 1980 - widespread labor unrest has caused government shakeups.

Strikers in Nowa Huta are demanding an immediate 50 percent increase in their average monthly pay of $105 and a doubling of the $15 paid monthly in compensation for recent price increases to all industrial workers, teachers, health care workers and retirees.

Plant deputy director Janusz Razowski told state-run radio today that the strikers’ demands for more pay were impossible to meet: ″We cannot allow the steelworks to become insolvent.″

Update hourly