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Walesa Supports Calls For Strike To Protest Meat Price Hikes

June 26, 1985

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Solidarity leader Lech Walesa on Wednesday joined calls for a one-hour strike against a government hike in meat prices.

Walesa is already under investigation for his role in a planned 15-minute strike which was planned for last February but canceled before it ever took place. It led to prison terms of 21/2 to 31/2 years for three Solidarity organizers who attended a planning meeting with Walesa.

The government has warned Walesa he faces prosecution if he continues ″illegal union activity.″

No date has been set for the price rise, but the official Communist Party newspaper Trybuna Ludu said in a commentary Monday: ″It will be more expensive from July 1 on the meat market.″

Marek Rudzinski, an official in the government spokesman’s office, said the article ″is not an official communique″ and refused to confirm that meat prices will go up Monday.

The Solidarity underground has issued appeals for a one-hour strike the first working day after the prices go into effect. Solidarity charged in a communique circulated Tuesday that the government would put the increases into effect unannounced to avoid protests.

Walesa, the elected chairman of the now-outlawed free trade union movement said: ″The working people have the right to a justified protest, the forms of which factory crews can best determine.

″I have full confidence in their intuition, and the activists in our movement, including me, will be at their disposal,″ Walesa said in a statement read over the telephone from his apartment in the northern city of Gdansk.

Marek Muszynski - an underground Solidarity leader from the southwestern Wroclaw area - called for a strike when meat prices rise, in a statement circulated Wednesday.

Seven former Solidarity leaders from the Ursus tractor factory in Warsaw also issued a statement calling for increases in pay and a variety of worker benefits to counter price inceases.

Increases in the cost of meat, which is rationed, led to widespread worker unrest in 1970, 1976 and 1980. Meat price hikes in July 1980 sparked nationwide strikes, and the birth of Solidarity - the first free trade union movement in the Soviet Bloc - a month later.

Solidarity was suspended in December 1981 when the government imposed martial law, and was outlawed in October 1982. Martial law was lifted two years ago, although many of its restrictions remain.

Walesa said the communist authorities have no program to lift Poland’s economy out of its ″present critical situation.″

″Price hikes cause a further decline in living standards of the Polish working people even though at present conditions of existence for a decisive majority of Poles are very difficult,″ said Walesa, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

Solidarity has urged the government to increase salaries by the equivalent of $12.65 a month to offset the meat-price hikes and increases in the cost of other foodstuffs. The average monthly salary is $107.60.

Walesa is under investigation in connection with appeals for a 15-minute strike in February to protest against the price rises and has been warned he faces prosecution if he continues ″illegal union activity.″

Three Solidarity activists, Bogdan Lis, Adam Michnik and Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, were sentenced to prison terms on June 14 for signing an appeal for the February strike, which Solidarity called off when the government revised its price increase policy.

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