Poland's independent trade union federation Solidarity reacted cautiously today to the change in the country's political leadership but criticized a temporary ban on strikes as a violation of international law.
A statement released by the union's Presidium in the Baltic port of Gdansk expressed understanding for the need to combat Poland's grave economic crisis and reduce the number of strikes. But it warned that a compulsory ban on strikes might prove counterproductive.
The Polish parliament is due to consider the Communist Party's call for a suspension of the right to strike at a session later this week. Since labor unrest flared up in Poland last year, parliament has passed resolutions twice calling for a suspension of all strikes -- but these have stopped short of declaring them illegal.
Perhaps symbolically, the new Communist Party leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, devoted his first day in office to briefing Army chiefs and Soviet Bloc ambassadors on the results of the party's Central Committee meeting at the weekend.
In a speech to the Central Committee published today, Jaruzelski hinted at more personnel changes both in the party Politburo and government. He said it would have been "premature" to have rushed ahead with such changes after his own election, and they should be put off until both parliament and the Central Committee meet again in a few days' time.
For the time being, Jaruzelski is to retain his two other jobs of premier and minister of defense.
In its statement, the Solidarity Presidium said it had no intention of commenting on personnel changes within the party or internal party resolutions except in so far as they affect the situation in the country. It said the 9.5 million-member union would participate in all activites to combat the crisis that stood a chance of success and would attempt to eliminate "unjustified" protests.
The statement added: "We believe that in order to avoid strikes, it is necessary to eliminate their objective causes rather than resort to bans in violation of international law. No ban can be effective if cooperation between the authorities and society is broken and the security of union members threatened."
Despite the Central Committee resolution, strikes continued in several parts of the country, including the town of Zyradow, near Warsaw, where about 12,000 textile workers are occupying factories to protest food shortages. Solidarity branches in several other regions declared a state of strike readiness.
The Solidarity statement said that a meeting of the National Committee, the union's highest policy-making body, would take place Thursday to reply to the latest moves by the party. In the meantime, it called on all branches to maintain calm since there was no reason for "feverish activity."
Commenting on the results of the Central Committee plenum, Solidarity's daily bulletin in Warsaw said that the change in leadership had solved nothing. The ruling Politburo, it added, was still paralyzed by differences of opinion between hard-liners and reformers and unable to find a solution acceptable to all.
In Paris, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa welcomed the change of leadership in Poland, saying "in our opinion the situation is better than before," Reuter reported. He told a press conference that "the changes . . . will not produce unfavorable developments for our movement."