Solidarity turns on government: Union leaders angry at Prime Minister's tough stand on pay claims

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The Independent Online
IN WHAT was almost a flashback to the heady days of 1980, Poland's Solidarity trade union yesterday decided to force a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in the government while at the same time setting up a committee to prepare for a possible general strike.

Union leaders meeting at the Solidarity headquarters in Gdansk voted by an overwhelming 76-3 margin to bring the no-confidence vote, although they stopped short of deciding once and for all whether to call a general strike.

Solidarity members in the Warsaw district will today begin downing tools in sympathy with teachers and public sector workers, who earlier this month began striking over a pay claim. Some union representatives predicted that the strike could be nationwide within a week.

Yesterday's decision to force through a no-confidence motion in the Sejm (parliament) resulted from the collapse of talks between Solidarity and the government on Tuesday aimed at resolving the public sector dispute. With Hanna Suchocka, the Prime Minister, adamantly refusing to cave in to the pay demands, Solidarity officials decided to press ahead with their threat to try and bring her down.

'We were very disappointed with the Prime Minister's tough approach,' said a member of Solidarity's national commission, Andrzej Adamczyk. 'The feeling is that any government would be more flexible than this one,' he added.

With only minority support in the Sejm, there is a very real prospect that Ms Suchocka's government, seen by many as a source of stability in Poland, could be brought down. If it were, there would be more than a tinge of irony: Solidarity itself was one of the key players responsible for propelling Ms Suchocka to power last July.

According to many union officials, the cooling towards Ms Suchocka reflects a more general process within Solidarity of distancing itself from its recent past as a mass movement, first of opposition and then of government. 'We want to go back to being a plain trade union fighting for the interests of ordinary working people,' said Bogdan Olszewski, a Solidarity leader.

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