Poland's legislative assembly passed a resolution tonight suspending the right to strike for two months despite objections from the independent Solidarity trade union federation.
Earlier Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski threatened to resign unless granted peaceful conditions for his government to carry out a program of economic and political reforms. The nine-point legislative resolution also called for better in formation in the official news media, the protection of living standards for low-income families and support for Gen. Jaruzelski's government.
During a 70-minute speech to the assembly, or Sejm, Jaruzelski said strikes were having a disastrous effect on the economy and process of government. But his proposal for a temporary suspension of the right to strike drew an expression of deep concern from Solidarity leaders, who described it as "unjustified."
In a statement issued in Gdansk before the vote in the Sejm, the Solidarity leaders said that while there was a real possibility of avoiding strikes by eliminating their causes and fulfilling agreements with labor, "suspension of the right to strike will be understood by the people as a sign of action that might spark off strikes and thus increase social tension . . .
"No decree passed by the Sejm will be able to avert a strike if our union's security is endangered or the law is violated."
When Jaruzelski assumed office two months ago, Solidarity leaders gave conditional support to his appeal for 90 "strike-free days" -- the proviso being that the government press ahead with reforms and refrain from repressive acts against the union and its members.
After several weeks of uneasy truce, the strike moratorium collapsed in mid-March when Solidarity activists in the northern town of Bydgoszcz were beaten by plainclothes policemen.
Under proposed new union legislation, yet to be acted upon, the Sejm will be empowered to ban strikes for periods of up to two months in any one year "in exceptional circumstances justified by the critical economic state of the country."
Solidarity had won the right to strike, unique in the Communist Bloc, in the massive stoppages last September.
Jaruzelski's speech was double-edged, attempted to convice both Solidarity and the Communist Party apparatus to give him greater freedom to maneuver to rebuild the government's authority and lead Poland out of its political and economic crisis.
At the same time, he sought to reassure the Soviet Union that Poland remains a loyal member of the Eastern Bloc capable of counteracting "antisocialist forces," a difficult political balancing act.
In an attempt to win Solidarity's confidence, Jaruzelski indicated there could be a compromise over farmer's demands for an independent union -- one of the main causes of the recent tension. He also promised "personnel changes," fuller information in the official news media, and a mixed government-union commission to resolve disputes. He said the governemnt had learned its lesson from the incidents in Bydgoszcz.
On the other hand, he strongly attacked a mass leaflet campaign by Solidarity and meetings where, he said, people "swore at socialism and our [Warsaw Pact] alliances." He called for greater respect for the police and accused radical groups in Solidarity of harboring political ambitions and thriving in an atmosphere of conflict.
The premier said the functioning of the market had virtually broken down and described the task of everyday shopping for the housewife as "a torture." He hinted that the rationing system might be extended from butter, meat, and sugar to other foods, including bread.
[Jaruzelski also underlined a more detailed statement to the Sejm by Deputy Premier Henryk Kisiel that food prices would have to rise, Reuter reported. Such increases have proved explosive in the past.]
At the end of his speech, he said: "I want the Sejm to decide on a decree allowing the government to work as I said it should. Whether or not the premier continues to do his duty depends on this decision and on broad public support."
Jaruzelski's threat to resign unless given fuller support resembled a similar gesture by Solidarity leader Lech Walesa two weeks ago. Walesa has since called for Solidarity to abandon strikes in favor of othe forms of pressure on the authorities, including lobbying the assembly.
Together, the two leaders have managed to build up considerable public sympathy, so their threats carry some weight. Walsea has frequently expressed support for Jaruzelski.Both Solidarity and the official news media have described the Jaruzelski government as representing Polan's "last chance" to avoid a catastrophe.
In addition to a report on negotiations to form an independent farmer's union, the assembly is also due to examine new proposals restricting censorship. For the first time in many years, delegates were given a choice of seperate drafts to consider: one drawn up by the government, the other by Solidarity. Predictably the government draft is less liberal.
In speeches broadcast live on nationwide television, some delegates echoed shop-floor complaints by strongly attacking hard-liners in the leadership for obstructing reforms. One of Poland's best-known actors, Gustav Holoubek, accused present and past communist leaders of bringing the country "to the brink of catastrophe."
He added: "They never listened to the people and they aren't listening now. Their talk of power sharing is empty and in negotiations they behave as if they own the country. Having unsurped power, they are in the grips of a fear that they might lose it."
Holoubek accused the authorities of "creating a demonic picture of a noble power fighting bloodthirsty monsters." He later made clear that the exempted Jaruzelski and most of his ministers from the criticism.