Solidarity sources reported Sunday that Poland’s new industry minister has ordered the closure of the huge Lenin Shipyard, the birthplace of the now banned labor union.
The shipyard director, reached by telephone Sunday night in Gdansk, would not directly confirm the order. “I have not agreed to it,” said an obviously agitated Czeslaw Tolwinski, who has managed the plant for the last five years.
Alojzy Szablewski, head of the shipyard’s Solidarity committee, said a source showed him a “procedure of liquidation.” The step-by-step plan to close the shipyard was reportedly received by Tolwinski on Saturday from the new industry minister, Mieczyslaw Wilczek.
He said Wilczek put Tolwinski in charge of orchestrating closure of the shipyard but that the manager refused to accept the order.
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, reached in Gdansk, said he had heard rumors about the closing of the shipyard but preferred to wait until the information was verified.
The shipyard, which employs 12,000 people, has been under threat of closure for the past year, along with several other shipyards that have operated at a loss. Last spring, the shipyard was informed by the National Bank of Poland that further government credits and subsidies were impossible.
The rumors of closing increased after a two-week wave of sporadic strikes in May.
Shipyard workers joined a strike of coal miners late last summer that ended only after Walesa was promised, during his first talks in seven years with the government, that restoration of Solidarity’s legal status would be discussed during later negotiations.
Those negotiations have been delayed because of disagreements between Walesa and officials.
Wilczek, a Polish millionaire who owns two of his own companies, took the Cabinet post as part of Premier Mieczyslaw Rakowski’s new government.
Szablewski, of the Solidarity committee, called the minister’s decision a “provocation.”
“At present,” he said, “as far as the economy goes, the shipyard is the most effective ever.”