Holdouts in Polish Shipyard Urged to Accept Compromise
Strike leaders at the Lenin Shipyard attempted Sunday to persuade the remaining 400 Solidarity holdouts to accept a compromise that might lead to an end to the strike but that would give up on the demand that Solidarity be legalized in the shipyard.
In place of the demand for the official reinstatement of the now-outlawed union, the proposal calls for a commission, which would include representatives of the strikers, to oversee the implementation of other settlement guarantees, such as assurance that participants and leaders in the strike would not be penalized or punished.
The proposal brought a hostile initial reaction from most of the workers, who have made the legalization of Solidarity--at least in the shipyard--the leading point in their demands.
When the compromise plan was read out to workers, who were asked to think it over before giving their opinion, they immediately jumped to their feet and took up a familiar chant: “No freedom without Solidarity!”
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa then spoke to the strikers and told them he would support whatever decision they made.
“We have to have a union,” said one worker after the meeting in what seemed a typical reaction. “We’ll stay here one month, or as long as it takes.”
A member of the strike committee that drafted the compromise indicated a sharp division between the younger strikers and the more experienced Solidarity advisers, most of whom are not shipyard employees, but intellectuals or longtime opposition activists.
“Here we have young people,” said committee member Andrzej Duzynski, 28. “They were not here in (the strikes of) 1981. They don’t know what (it is like) to be beaten and handcuffed and taken away. Those of us who are older, who lived through that, want some kind of compromise.”
Some of Solidarity’s advisers, disheartened that the strike has not ignited wide support across the country, feel that the commission proposed by the compromise--because it would include Solidarity activists--is the best solution the strikers can get.
The more militant strikers, however, feel that in the long run their cause would gain most by forcing the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski to use force to enter the shipyard and remove the strikers, a method that authorities used to end a strike at the nation’s largest steel mill last week.
The government has hesitated to send police into the shipyard, although there were indications Sunday that the government’s patience with the strike was running out.
A statement on Polish television Sunday evening reinforced that impression, saying, “The management of the shipyard, in agreement with the provincial authorities, has taken the necessary steps to resolve the issue of the strike in a humanitarian way.” The vast shipyard remained surrounded by riot police.
Talks with management representatives and the Solidarity strike committee inside the plant broke off after an hour Sunday, when the yard officials said they were withdrawing an offer made Saturday to increase wages by about $25 per month and to guarantee that strikers would not be punished for joining or leading the strike.
However, later in the day, strike leaders said a telephone call from the government’s interior minister, Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, said the previous day’s offer would be reinstated if the strikers left the yards by 6 p.m. Sunday--something they did not do. In response to the Kiszczak call, however, the strike’s leaders, sensing a conciliatory gesture from the government, designed the compromise proposal.
Until the compromise was proposed, the strike’s leaders had been consistently determined to stay in the shipyard until the union was officially reinstated, or until the authorities forcibly evicted them.
The Polish government has received strong criticism from the West in response to the use of police to end the steel mill strike on Thursday, and there was speculation Sunday that Jaruzelski and his advisers may be hoping to avoid the further international protests that would almost certainly follow similar action here.