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Polish Train Engineers May Strike

June 16, 1998

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Polish train engineers, demanding pay raises and early retirement schemes, said Tuesday they will go on at midnight after breaking off negotiations with the government.

The decision was announced by Jan Zaborowski, head of the engineers’ largest trade union that represents some 14,000 out of Poland’s 20,000 engineers.

Solidarity union members refused to participate in the action that is to idle trains just days before school vacation begins, saying it was not over money but to sow political trouble.

Railway authorities said they have plans to ensure continuation of transport, using non-striking engineers but estimate the action will cost 21 million zlotys (dlrs 6.1 million) daily.

Transport Minister Eugeniusz Morawski said the strike will be at the expense of the ``country’s economy, of the railway clients and of the whole country.″

The action was called after the government spokesman refused to apologize for calling the strike political, Zaborowski said.

Transport ministry officials said they were nearing an agreement after weeks of negotiations, but the engineers broke off the talks Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said the union action was discrepant with labor procedures. He added the government was prepared for the action.

The engineers want a 300-zloty (dlrs-88) raise in their monthly pay, currently about 1,000 zlotys (dlrs 300).

They want to be eligible for retirement at 55 if they have worked for at least 20 years. They want the age limit dropped for those who have worked for at least 30 years. The current retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women.

In addition, the engineers want the government to funnel 1 percent of its annual budget to subsidize the railways, which are strapped for cash but need to lower prices to compete with cheaper road travel.

The Polish rail carries 1.1 million passengers and some 600,000 tons of goods daily.

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