Offer Ignored, Solidarity Calls Shipyard Strike

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Times Staff Writer

Solidarity leaders in the Baltic seaport city of Gdansk on Sunday called for a strike today by workers at the Lenin Shipyard after the government ignored an offer by Lech Walesa to discuss legalization of the banned trade union.

Walesa, the Nobel prize-winning union leader, had offered to suspend his call for a strike if the government agreed to talks. But a spokesman for the shipyard strike committee said Warsaw’s silence forced a decision to ask 10,000 more workers to join in what is already the strongest wave of labor unrest since 1981.

Walesa, in a churchyard rally with Solidarity supporters after a Mass on Sunday, had hinted that he had been approached by high-ranking officials of Poland’s Communist government and said he would be willing to suspend the strike threat if talks with the government went forward.


He suggested that the government could reply to his offer on the evening television news broadcast.

However, there was no mention on television of any talks. Instead, the television announcer said the strikes, affecting at least 11 coal mines and port and transport workers in Szczecin, will continue.

“Tomorrow (Monday), Poland will enter the second week of strikes, and we will continue estimating the losses for our economy,” the announcer said.

Walesa, who is not a member of the strike committee, declined to comment after watching the broadcast with advisers.

Adam Michnik, a leading Solidarity activist, told reporters in Gdansk that Walesa had been approached by “the highest echelons” of the Polish government, but he declined to be more specific.

Although the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski has made various attempts to draw Walesa closer to it, the government has steadily refused to recognize the union, suppressed since December, 1981.


Michnik said that any talks with the government would have to be held “in the open air” and not in secret.

Some opposition sources said that the government might have proposed secret talks with Walesa in an effort to put an end to a new wave of strikes here and that Walesa had countered with an offer to meet with government officials as long as the talks were held openly.

Michnik and other Solidarity leaders in Gdansk appeared confident Sunday that they would have no trouble organizing a strike in the shipyard, which employs about 10,000 workers--and possibly organizing wider strikes in other enterprises in that city as well.

A strike called by young shipyard workers in May ended after 10 days when the government refused to give in to worker demands to legalize the union. The end of that strike climaxed a two-week period in which about half a dozen large factories, including a steel mill and a defense plant, went on strike.

However, that wave of strikes failed to generate widespread support in the country, and Walesa then said that the country was not ready for the kind of concerted action that followed the formation of Solidarity in August, 1980.

It remains doubtful that the mood of the country has altered that much in the last three months, but the strikes in Poland’s important coal industry, which so far have idled about 75,000 mine workers, put new pressure on the government. Coal is Poland’s leading hard-currency export, accounting for about $1 billion annually, about 20% of the total.