National Solidarity Protest Day Draws 5,000 in Capital
May. 22, 1991
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ About 5,000 Solidarity members Wednesday marched on government buildings to protest the economic reform policies that are holding down their wages.
The march was part of a nationwide ''day of protest'' that included banners hung from factory windows and symbolic work stoppages throughout the country.
It was the most serious challenge yet to Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, nominated to lead the government in January by President Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity chairman.
Although Bielecki and most of the other government officials entered politics through Solidarity, the workers' movement founded in 1980 to resist Communism, workers are unhappy with his anti-inflation policies.
Union leaders said they considered the protests a success, even though they did not draw huge crowds.
''Today we will not settle everything, but something moved,'' said Maciej Jankowski, leader of Solidarity's Warsaw chapter, after presenting the marchers' demands to Parliament and government representatives.
''It will not end now. If there is a need, we will come back again. If we have to we will gather 100,000 people or 500,000.''
Government spokesman Andrzej Zarebski said there was no official reaction to the protest. Bielecki was not on hand to receive the petition. President Lech Walesa, Solidarity's founder, was on a state visit to Israel.
Carrying signs which read, ''Stop Destroying Polish Industry and Agriculture'' and ''Credits for Apartment Buildings,'' marchers from Warsaw- area factories gathered at Three Crosses Square at noon. They marched about a half mile to Parliament and then to the main government building.
The demonstrators pushed a wheelbarrow with a sign saying ''For Balcerowicz.'' Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz has engineered the East bloc's most ambitious economic reform program.
''He wants to make an America in Poland too quickly,'' said Czeslaw Wasilewski, a laborer with the Warsaw school department.
Workers also downed tools in one- or two-hour strikes at factories in Wroclaw, at mines in the Katowice area, and at the small car factory in Bielsko-Biala. In Gdansk and many other cities, protest banners were hung from plant buildings.
There has been building labor unrest during the past 18 months of transition from a Communist system to a market economy. Although prices have been allowed to rise, wages have been kept in check with punitive taxes.
Garbage collectors in Warsaw, who went on strike for a week, ended their action Wednesday. But a citywide transit strike continued for the second day.
Several march participants in Warsaw said they were demonstrating against government policies, not the government itself.
''It has got to give something because unfortunately our pockets are getting emptier and emptier,'' said 32-year-old Roman Zalewski, a worker at the Ursus tractor factory outside Warsaw. ''People have nothing to live on.''