Polish face-off over Solidarity
Carrying Polish flags and chanting ``Solidarity,'' 400 workers seized the Lenin Shipyard yesterday, joining a wave of strikes that poses the most serious challenge to authorities since 1981. The Lenin Shipyard became the 13th enterprise in a week to go on strike for higher pay and government recognition of Solidarity, the trade union that was suppressed under martial law in 1981.
At least 10 coal mines in southern Poland and transit and dock workers in Szczecin remained on strike on the seventh day of the labor unrest, which has idled more than 76,000 workers.
There was no police interference as workers took over the main gate at 8:35 a.m.
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa blamed the strikes on authorities, whom he said have refused to engage in dialogue with workers.
``I wanted to avoid strikes,'' he said. ``But there was no other choice.... We are still waiting for serious talks.''
The government, which has refused to negotiate with Solidarity, has not stated how it intends to deal with the strikes. Labor unrest stemming in part from official price increases have three times toppled governments in post-war Poland: in 1956, 1970, and 1980.
``If you work only eight hours a day, you make 40,000 zlotys ($89) a month, and that's not enough to make a living,'' said one man in his mid-20s, asked why he joined the strike.
The government-controlled media have called the strikes illegal and stressed their rising cost to the economy.