Walesa Says He'll Fight Government's Plans to Close Gdansk Shipyard

Associated Press

An infuriated Lech Walesa vowed today to fight government plans to close the Lenin shipyard, the site where the Solidarity trade union was born.

The state-owned shipyard in Gdansk is being closed Dec. 1, the government announced today. It is the first big industrial plant to be singled out for closure by the month-old government of Prime Minister Mieczyslaw F. Rakowski.

The decision was announced while the shipyard was closed on the eve of All Saints' Day, and it caught many workers and Solidarity activists by surprise. The yard reopens Wednesday.

Solidarity Opposed

A longtime foe of Solidarity, Rakowski took office Sept. 27 with a pledge to restructure Poland's aging industrial base and get the economy moving. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Co., he said the decision "has nothing to do with Solidarity."

The announcement came during an impasse in preparations for talks between representatives of Solidarity and the government, which had been promised to Walesa on Aug. 31 during the last strike at the shipyard.

In an interview, Walesa denounced the decision as Rakowski's "personal provocation . . . against the birthplace of Solidarity." Rakowski was a firm supporter of the Dec. 13, 1981, martial-law crackdown on Solidarity.

Symbol of Struggle

Walesa, himself a worker at the shipyard, said in a later statement that "Solidarity will defend the enterprise which is for the union and for the whole nation a symbol of the struggle for a new and better Poland."

The state-run news agency PAP said Rakowski on Saturday approved an Industry Ministry recommendation to close the yard. It referred to the premier's Oct. 13 speech when he presented his plan to Parliament.

Rakowski told the BBC that "there is no other way. If someone wants to make the Polish economy more healthy, he has to start with very strong steps."

The century-old shipyard, the scene of strikes in May and August, employs about 10,000 workers and is scheduled to build 11 ships this year. It constructs ships primarily for the Soviet Union for non-convertible currency.

Articles in the press have questioned its financial efficacy, with one newspaper describing the Lenin shipyard "as a giant on partly rotten legs."

PAP said the shipyard's workers would be offered jobs at other enterprises in Gdansk province.

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