INTRODUCTION: Poland's free trade union Solidarity paralysed industry and public transport in Warsaw for four hours on Friday (23 January), as token strikes across the country continued for the second consecutive day.
SV Members of Solidarity trade union laying wreath at memorial to Poles who died fighting against Russians (2 shots)
SV Solidarity strike leader speaking in Polish at workers' meeting as audience and newsmen listen (4 shots)
GV Solidarity office workers with pamphlets
GV Workers in Warsaw tractor factory laying down tools as siren sounds and listening to loudspeaker announcement telling them to stop work (6 shots)
GV EXTERIOR Solidarity leaders and workers walking outside gates of Gdansk shipyard
CU Lech Walesa, Solidarity union leader speaking in Polish outside shipyard
CU & GV Shipyard workers standing behind yard gates (3 shots)
GV PAN Warsaw trams on sidings
GV PAN Empty tramlines in Warsaw
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Poland's free trade union Solidarity paralysed industry and public transport in Warsaw for four hours on Friday (23 January), as token strikes across the country continued for the second consecutive day. The strikes were staged despite a plea for moderation from Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa, and efforts by both sides to negotiate an agreement on the length of the working week.
In Warsaw on Thursday (22 January) groups of workers staged a commemorative ceremony in honour of Poles who died during anti-Russian uprisings in 1863. Their gesture took on a special significance as the country's labour crisis deepened. The latest wave of strikes, the most extensive since legalisation of Poland's union movement last November, began in protest at the government's refusal to grant a 40-hour week. Solidarity is also calling for access to the mass media and legalisation of the farmers' union, Rural Solidarity. Workers say the government promised to introduce free Saturdays this year in the agreement signed with strikers last year. The government says there was no fixed timetable and has promised to phase them in over several years.
A general strike alert was sounded throughout the Warsaw region after Solidarity leaders and Prime Minister Josef Pinkowski failed to reach agreement on a compromise solution over the question of working Saturdays. The government rejected Solidarity's proposal that Poles should work one Saturday a month.
The Gdansk shipyards were hit by stoppages and there were lightning strikes in at least nine other cities. Lech Walesa, who steered the shipyard workers to victory during the recent industrial upheaval, appealed for calm, and said a negotiated settlement was still possible. But although the government has promised a further joint conference with Solidarity, no date for another meeting has been set.
On Friday public transport in Warsaw shut down for four hours, and work was halted in 60 major industrial plants. Millions of workers were expected to stay at home on Saturday (24 January) as they did on January 10, despite warnings that their wages will be docked.