The beginning of Solidarity in Poland

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

The wave of strikes in August 1980 led to the creation of NSZZ "Solidarność" - the first legal trade union organization in communist countries, independent of the authorities.

Solidarity 80 Poland

The signing of an agreement in Gdańsk on 31 August 1980 between the government commission and the Interfactory Strike Committee and the creation of Solidarity were the beginning of the 1989 changes - the overthrow of communism and the end of the Yalta system.

The first strikes, which broke out in the summer of 1980, were a reaction to the rise in the price of meat and cold cuts, introduced by the government of Edward Gierek. " Unjustified breaks in work" - as the party propaganda called the strikes and newspapers of the time - started at the beginning of July, among others in WSK PZL-Mielec, POMET Metallurgical Plant in Poznań and Transbud Company in Tarnobrzeg. On 16 July, strikes broke out in Lublin; apart from economic demands, there was a demand for new elections to official trade unions for the first time. These strikes ended with promises of pay rises.

In July, there was a strike of about 80,000. of people in 177 workplaces. In mid-August 1980, strikes broke out on the North Poland, where the memory of the workers' protests bloody suppressed by the communist authorities in December 1970 was still alive. The strike in the Gdansk Shipyard was organized by activists of the Free Trade Unions of the Coast - an opposition, illegal organization established in 1978. Lech Wałęsa, Andrzej Gwiazda, Anna Walentynowicz and Krzysztof Wyszkowski.

It was in defense of Walentynowicz, a crane laid off for opposition activity, that on 14 August 1980 a strike began on several departments of the shipyard. It was planned and prepared by Borusewicz and started by the workers associated with WZZ: Jerzy Borowczak, Bogdan Felski and Ludwik Prądzyński. Soon, jumping over the fence, Lech Wałęsa also appeared in the shipyard, who was dismissed from work in 1976. Since then Lech Walesa was in charge of the strike.

Lech Walesa in Gdansk 80

On 17 September 1980, the representatives of the Interfactory Founding Committees adopted the statute which resolved the creation of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union "Solidarity" - one nationwide union with a regional structure. The National Conciliation Commission was headed by: Lech Wałęsa as chairman and Andrzej Gwiazda. Marian Jurczyk became the Chairman of the Board of the Western Pomerania Region.

There were 21 postulates that appeared on the boards on the gate of the Gdansk Shipyard:

1. Accept of free trade unions, independent from parties and employers, based on Convention No 87 of the International Labour Organisation on Freedom of Trade Unions ratified by the Polish People's Republic.

2. Guarantee the right to strike and the safety of strikers and supporters.

3. Freedom of speech, printing and publication guaranteed by the Constitution of the People's Republic of Poland, thus not repressing independent publishers and making the mass media available to representatives of all faiths.

4. Restore the previous rights. a. people released from work after the strikes of 1970 and 1976, students expelled from the university for their beliefs, b. release all political prisoners (including Edmund Zadrożyński, Jan Kozłowski, Marek Kozłowski), c. abolish repression for their beliefs.

5. To provide information in the mass media about the creation of the Interfactory Strike Committee and to publish its demands.

6. Provide real measures to get the country out of the crisis situation by: a. making public full information about the socio-economic situation, b. enabling all circles and social strata to participate in the discussion on the reform agenda.

7. Pay all workers who took part in the strike a wage for the duration of the strike, as for holiday leave, from the fund of the Central Trade Union Council (CRZZ).

8. Increase each staff member's basic salary by 2 000 PLN per month as compensation for the price increase to date.

9. Ensure that wages increase automatically in parallel with price increases and decreases in money value.

10. To fully supply the internal market with food, and to export only surpluses.

11. Abolish the commercial prices and sales for foreign exchange in the so-called "foreign currency" of domestic exports.

12. Introduce rules of selection of managers on the basis of qualifications, not party affiliation, and abolish privileges of the Civic Militia, the Security Service, and the party apparatus through: equalisation of family allowances, elimination of special sales, etc.

13. Introduce food vouchers to meat and meat products (until the market situation is calm). 14. Reduce the retirement age for women to 55, for men to 60, or to work in the People's Republic of Poland to 30 for women and 35 for men regardless of age.

15. Equalise the pensions of the old wallet with those of the current ones.

16. Improve the working conditions of the health service, which will provide full medical care to those who work.

17. Provide sufficient places in nurseries and kindergartens for the children of working women.

18. Introduce maternity leave paid for 3 years to raise a child.

19. Shorten the waiting time for apartments.

20. Raise your diet from 40 to 100 zloty and the separation allowance.

21. Bring in all Saturdays off. Continuous and quadrilateral workers are compensated for the lack of free Saturdays by increased leave or other paid holidays.

Postulates 80, Solidarity

On 10 November 1980, the Supreme Court registered the NSZZ "Solidarity". Soon, the union had almost 10 million members - it was 80 percent. of state employees. Trade union organisations were established in all companies and institutions - the authorities only prevented the establishment of links in the Polish Army and the Civic Militia.

Lech Walesa Solidarity

There is the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, where, among other things the former President and Solidarity legend Lech Walesa has his office. If you visit the city, you must go there too. It's a multimedia complex with the latest Polish history.

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