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Polish Transport Workers Strike for 11 Hours

April 26, 1988

BYDGOSZCZ, Poland (AP) _ Transit workers in Bydgoszcz were back on the job today after shutting down bus and streetcar service for 11 hours in a rare show of labor unrest by a government-sanctioned union.

The bus and streetcar drivers ended their walkout Monday by agreeing to hourly pay raises of about 60 percent, the chairman of the official union said.

″People are not satisfied but this is sufficient for them at the moment,″ said Harald Matuszewski.

The sudden walkout in this western Poland city forced thousands of people to walk to work and school Monday.

A spokeswoman for the official transport workers union, one of the labor groups put together by the government after the activist trade union Solidarity was banned in the 1981 martial law crackdown, said the strike even took union leaders by surprise.

″It was an initiative of the drivers,″ she said.

Buses and streetcars rolled again at about 5.30 p.m. on Monday.

Workers negotiated with a deputy mayor and a deputy provicial governor at a streetcar depot in Bydgoszcz, the spokeswoman said.

The union spokeswoman said hourly pay will increase by 12 cents to 33 cents. One driver said he now earns the equivalent of $75 to $90 a month and expects his pay to be about $25 more.

Solidarity founder Lech Walesa had said earlier he would go to Bydgoszcz in support of the strikers, but he remained at home in Gdansk, apparently because of the settlement.

Pressure for pay increases has grown because prices of many necessities have gone up 42 percent this year under an economic reform program instituted by the communist government.

According to official figures, wages had risen about 45 percent by April 1.

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish leader, told managers of state enterprises last month they risked dismissal if they were too generous with wage increases.

Meanwhile, two Solidarity leaders at a heavy machinery plant in southeast Poland were fired because of a protest rally last week, and workers there are threatening to strike, an opposition spokesman said today.

Wieslaw Wojtas, chairman of the founding committee of the plant’s Solidarity local, and Wieslaw Turasz, a committee member, were dismissed Monday from their jobs at the Stalowa Wola mills, said Ewa Kaberna, a Solidarity activist in the city.

She said workers ″announced a strike alert and are preparing a general strike,″ but she did not know when it might take place.

Opposition spokesman said about 5,000 workers took part in the rally the start of the afternoon shift at the sprawling plant in Stalowa Wola, about 95 miles southeast of Warsaw. The plant employs 18,000 workers.

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