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Workers Defy Walesa, Strike at 2 Yards

Associated Press

Workers in two shipyards here went on strike Tuesday in support of the doomed Lenin Shipyard, and they defied an appeal by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa to go back to work.

Walesa, meanwhile, said he might begin talks with the government even without receiving a guarantee by the authorities for the continued operation of the Lenin yard--the birthplace in 1980 of the banned trade union.

Several hundred impatient young workers began strikes Tuesday morning at the Wisla shipyard and the Gdansk repair yard to protest the scheduled Dec. 1 closing of the huge Lenin facility.

Strikers said they had waited long enough for the authorities to start talks that have been promised to consider the banned union’s future.

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“This is a warning to the authorities that we want the government to set about talks right away,” said Jan Stanecki, strike leader at the 1,000-worker Wisla yard, which makes yachts and small craft.

Stanecki said 400 to 500 workers at the yard supported the strike. As evening fell, some strikers huddled over fires at the gates roasting sausages, and half a dozen police vans drove up to seal off the shipyard. Temperatures were around freezing.

About 150 strikers at the 4,500-worker repair shipyard also vowed to stay off the job “to the end,” they said.

Through emissaries, Walesa urged the strikers to end the protests. He said there is still time to solve the Lenin Shipyard problem and that strikes could hinder resolution of the more pressing issues of the talks with the authorities and Solidarity’s future.

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Walesa spoke with management of the Lenin yard Tuesday and was told that its liquidation could take two years or more. The information has persuaded him not to demand an immediate reversal of the decision, he said.

“At first we had one month. Now we have two years,” he said. “We will fight for it (the shipyard) and we will save it. But the blade is not at our throats. . . . We have time and we can talk about the shipyard later.”

Decision ‘Irreversible’

However, in Warsaw, government spokesman Jerzy Urban repeated statements that the decision to close the shipyard is “final and irreversible.” He said workers will benefit in the long run from more efficient use of state resources.

Urban praised Walesa for not following through on a threat to declare a nationwide “strike alert” Tuesday. Urban, at a news conference, said Walesa’s forbearance showed “reason and realism. . . . We are learning democracy.”

Walesa said that for the climate for talks between the union and the government to improve, officials must make good on promises to reinstate about 100 coal miners in southern Poland who were fired for striking in August.

Walesa also said he will not allow interference in the composition of Solidarity’s delegation to the talks.

The government proposed the talks during the August strikes, Poland’s worst wave of labor unrest in seven years.

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Walesa agreed to end those strikes after the government promised that Solidarity’s future could be on the agenda for discussion, as well as broader issues of political and economic reform.

Government objections to longtime Solidarity advisers Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron as part of the Solidarity delegation have stalled the talks, and the union views the government decision to close the Lenin yard as a provocation. The government says the shipyard is being closed because it was losing money.

At a rally at the Lenin Shipyard, Walesa said he would like to start talks with authorities immediately. At a later news conference, he said that strikes would not be advantageous now, and he indicated that he could lose control of the situation if strikes spread.

“I don’t want to go on strike. I want to solve the problems of the round table and of the Solidarity trade union, not to get the country into deeper crisis,” he said.

Walesa appeared annoyed that the strikes had started and said he might resign as Solidarity’s leader if workers did not follow his decisions.


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