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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rescue Plan Unveiled for Polish Shipyard

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's Prime Minister held out a lifeline to save 2,000 jobs at the sinking Gdansk shipyard on Thursday, then accused the Solidarity union of fomenting chaos by illegal protests in the yard's defense.


"Don't try to build a second Albania in Poland," Premier Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz warned Solidarity in a speech to parliament, savaging unionists who occupied Warsaw ministries on Wednesday and scuffled with police he sent to expel them.


Solidarity this week launched nationwide protests against the government led by Cimoszewicz's ex-communists, demanding help for the shipyard where the union arose in 1980 and battled for the 1989 overthrow of repressive communist rule.


The yard is a powerful symbol to rally support for rightist parties in the Solidarity Election Action, an alliance the union has formed to fight elections due around September.


Cimoszewicz moved to take the wind from Solidarity's sails by proposing a rescue package for the yard, where the receiver this month began dismissing the last 3,800 workers.


He proposed that the successful Szczecin shipyard would set up, with the use of the Gdansk yard's assets, a new subsidiary to build ships for Poland's PZM merchant shipping company.


He said that under the plan the new company would build one ship for a German shipowner and complete another under construction, then build five vessels for PZM in 1998-2000.


"Such a plan allows employment of about 2,000 workers including about 1,100 in production at the outset," he said.


He said this was more likely to win government guarantees and credits from Polish banks which had refused finance for a contract to build five ships for the German owner, adding that the rest was now up to the Gdansk shipyard's receiver.


Solidarity President Marian Krzaklewski made no immediate detailed comment on the proposal, but said he had been appealing to Cimoszewicz for a year to do something.


"After a year of efforts at dialogue, I hope the proposal put by Premier Cimoszewicz is realistic," he told a news conference after a meeting with fellow union chiefs.


Cimoszewicz heaped all the blame for the Gdansk shipyard's travails on the union and past managements it supported. He accused Solidarity, whose supporters have staged rowdy protests, of breaking the law and provoking violent clashes.


"No matter how many times you burn me in effigy, use vulgar words against me, I will not let you plunge Poland into anarchy," Cimoszewicz thundered.


Ex-President Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity, said in Gdansk that the premier's speech was empty electioneering.


"These are the ramblings of a frustrated commie. He has started the election campaign already," he said.


Krzaklewski said union chiefs had decided to call protests, but not strikes, at all workplaces in Poland on Tuesday.


He said the union, which plans street protests Friday in Warsaw, was also considering a major demonstration in the capital on April 11.


It is also due to hold marches in provincial capitals Friday to back the yard and against violence which it says the police unleashed against its peaceful protests.