URGENT Walesa Calls For End Of Strikes After Meeting With Government
GDANSK, Poland (AP) _ Solidarity leader Lech Walesa Wednesday night appealed to striking workers across the country to settle local grievances with management in order to end Poland’s worst wave of strikes in seven years.
Walesa said the national issues of guaranteeing trade union pluralism and legalizing his banned trade union Solidarity would be taken up in round-table discussions promised by the government in the near future, according to a statement read by an aide.
The aide, Piotr Konopka, said Walesa was conferring with strikers at the Lenin shipyard and the strike there could end very soon.
Walesa’s statement came after meeting with Communist officials for the first time since the union was banned in 1982. The officials media said they discussed holding talks on workers’ grievances.
The extraordinary, three-hour meeting was aimed at solving Poland’s strongest wave of strikes since the 1981 martial law crackdown.
″I am an optimist,″ a smiling Walesa told reporters and several dozen cheering supporters after the meeting.
Walesa had no other comment as he left the Roman Catholic episcopate in Warsaw by car. He conferred with top Solidarity advisers and church officials for two hours after concluding his talks with Interior Minister Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak.
Earlier, a communique by the press office of the episcopate said that Walesa had raised the key issues of Solidarity’s future and union pluralism.
″The partners (in the talks) stated that all problems connected with union movement will be discussed at the round table. There are no taboo subjects,″ the communique said.
Ten enterprises across the country remained idled by strikers demanding reinstatement of Solidarity and higher wages to offset 60 percent inflation.
The state-run news agency PAP carried a brief report on the talks.
″Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak met with Lech Walesa in Warsaw. The talk was attended by Bishop Jerzy Dabrowski and Stanislaw Ciosek,″ the PAP report said. Ciosek is a secretary of the official national unity organization PRON. PRON, which stands for Patriotic Movement for National Rebirth, was set up by the government shortly after martial law.
Witnesses who saw Walesa leave the meeting said it was held in a villa in the Mokotow district of Warsaw 300 feet from the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Poland.
Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, then returned to the Roman Catholic episcopate, where he went after arriving from Gdansk.
PAP said the participants discussed ″the premises for holding a round- table meeting and its procedures.″
The PAP report apparently referred to Friday’s proposal by Kiszczak for broad-based ″round-table″ discussions on worker grievances.
The Communist Party’s ruling Politburo on Tuesday heard a report on ″preparations for the ‘round-table’ meeting,″ and recommended Kiszczak continue ″the mission entrusted to him.″
Lt. Colonel Wieslaw Gornicki, an aide to Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, told ABC’s Good Morning America today that Kiszczak talked to Walesa as an ″eminent personality,″ but not as ″the chairman of a nonexistent union.″
The government demanded in exchange for the talks that Walesa end a strike at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk.
When asked by reporters earlier today if he would do this, Walesa replied, ″I don’t have the powers.″ When asked if that meant he would not call off the strike, the Solidarity chairman said, ″I did not say so.″
Asked what he would discuss with Kiszczak, Walesa said: ″How to make up for the past seven years.″
Accords signed at the Gdansk shipyard on Aug. 31, 1980 after a nationwide strike wave made Solidarity the only independent labor federation ever recognized in the Soviet bloc. It was suppressed with martial law in 1981 and banned the next year.
The current strikes began began Aug. 16 in the coal fields of Silesia, in southern Poland, and spread to Solidarity’s traditional stronghold in the ports and shipyards of the Baltic coast.
At their peak, they affected 20 businesses employing about 100,000 people.
A strike at the huge steel and heavy machinery plant in Stalowa Wola, in southeastern Poland, intensified this week.
Senior Solidarity advisers called today’s Warsaw meeting a historic event.
Walesa last met with a senior government official in early 1982, when he was still interned.
In recent years, he has been spoken of by the government as a private citizen, a tool of foreign powers and ″the former head of a former union.″
But in the past few months, authorities have been seeking partners in an attempt to open a dialogue with society that might help lead the country out of economic despondency.
″The results of this meeting ... will be very important for the fate of the whole country and the world,″ said Adam Michnik, a senior Solidarity adviser.
At a news conference in Warsaw, Urban, the government spokesman, said ″the starting of talks would be a common victory.″
The evening news Tuesday showed footage of the signing of the Gdansk agreements on Aug. 31, 1980 by Walesa and Mieczyslaw Jagielski, who at that time was the deputy prime minister.
″It’s high time to try it again,″ said the television news moderator at the conclusion of the report.