Leaders of Poland's independent trade union federation Solidarity tonight called off a one-hour nationwide general strike planned for Tuesday following agreement with the government on greater access to the news media and a shorter working week.
The decision provides at least a temporary break in the crisis atmosphere that has gripped Poland in recent days, but a Solidarity spokesman made clear lthat the union might still go ahead with a general strike later in the month unless the Communist authorities recognize the right of Poland's 3 million private farmers to form their own independent unions.
Meanwhile a regional strike continued into its fifth day in the southern industrial town of Bielsko-Biala.
The Solidarity decision, made at a meeting in Warsaw of the union organization's national coordinating committee, appears to remove the threat of widespread industrial unrest this week and renewed confrontation with the Polish government and to have headed off new criticism from Moscow. But, unless the peasants' grievances are solved quickly, the respite could be brief.
A government delegation met peasants' representatives today in the southeastern town of Rzeszow to discuss their demands, and the Supreme Court is due to rule on the issue of the creation of a "Rural Solidarity" within the next 10 days. Soldarity leaders have declared a day of "propaganda support for the peasants" on Tuesday in place of the planned strike.
This evening the government fulfilled one of its promises by allowing the broadcast on radio and television of a communique issued by ysolidarity's national committee. The statement, announcing the decision to suspend next Tuesday's strike, was read out in full on news bulletins.
Until recently, Solidarity meetings were largely ignored by the state-controlled news media -- and media access was one of the major issues raised during more than 12 hours of tough negotiations Friday. Solidarity has also been promised its own radio and television programs and a weekly national newspaper in addition to regional papers.
A Solidarity spokesman, Janusz Onyskiewicz, described the mood of today's meeting, attended by delegates hastily assembled from all over Poland, as one of "relief" following the settlement of the protracted dispute with the government about working hours. Under the agreement, workers will have three Saturdays off in every four until the introduction of a five-day working week next year.
Asked why it took so long to reach a compromise on the issue, which had brought a new crisis in relations between Solidarity and the authorities, he replied: "The government's position on free Saturdays was very rigid. It was only by applying considerable pressure that we were able to extract these concessions from them."
Another highly sensitive issue discussed by the national committee was the staging of uncoordinated strikes by Solidarity's regional branches. A delegation from Bielsko-Biala, where striking workers are demanding the dismissal of allegedly repressive local officials, defended their action.
Onyskiewicz said that, under the statutes of Solidarity, the national leadership could appeal to local branches to call off strikes but had no right to ban them.