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‘Ecological Alert’ Declared, Soldiers Collect Trash

May 21, 1991

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Capital residents had it bad enough. In the sixth day of a trash collectors’ strike, soldiers were drafted to haul garbage and the provincial governor declared an ″ecological alert.″

Then, on Monday evening, streetcar drivers suddenly went on strike. Solidarity trade union officials said bus drivers would join the action today unless pay demands are met immediately.

Municipal transit workers earn an average of $162 a month and the streetcar drivers are demanding 50 percent pay increases.

Solidarity, now acting purely as a labor federation, is upset by the tight- money policies of the government it helped put in power.

″We’ve been fighting against the Communists, and now our own people are treating us like this,″ said a member of the garbage collectors’ strike committee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

City officials say they can afford only a $36 monthly pay increase for garbage collectors. The 4,200 workers at the Municipal Cleaning Enterprise were demanding 100 percent raises, or at least $117 more a month.

″Their wage demand would consume half the city budget,″ said Leszek Kaczynski, a member of the municipal board. ″Accepting the demand would mean destroying the city.″

The ″shock″ transition from Communist central planning to a market-driven economy is proving every bit as painful as predicted.

Trash was piling up in bins and apartment-building garbage chutes and at noon Monday provincial Governor Bohdan Jastrzebski declared the ecological alert. He said the army would provide vehicles and soldiers for collection.

Mayor Stanislaw Wyganowski said free distribution of plastic bags would begin in a few days for the city and suburbs, home to 2.4 million people.

Poles are not accustomed to disposing of garbage in plastic bags.

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