WARSAW — The Polish government, responding to complaints from its official trade unions, agreed Monday to ease consumer price increases for 1985 but said that doing so will only prolong the nation's economic crisis.
The government decision came 48 hours after the official unions formally rejected all three versions of price increase plans that the government put forward for public discussion last month. The unions' national coordinating council said the proposed boosts--averaging 12% to 13% for food and other necessities--would lower Poland's standard of living.
The outlawed Solidarity independent union has called for a 15-minute work stoppage across the nation Thursday to protest the increases. Reached by telephone in the Baltic city of Gdansk, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa told Western reporters that a statement will be issued today on whether to hold the strike or call it off.
He added that Polish workers have a right to protest against what he called the country's inefficient economic system, but he called for talks between the government and the political opposition on ways to revive the economy.
The official unions, which the government hopes will replace Solidarity, expressed objections to the price increases from the moment they were published last month. Many Poles expected that the government would back off to some degree from its original proposals in a stage-managed scenario designed to enhance the new unions' public credibility.
Reducing the Hardship
Poland's Cabinet met Monday and issued instructions to two ministries to draw up a new plan that would stretch out the imposition of higher prices, reduce their effect on housing costs and move more quickly to increase pensions and wages for people in the lowest income brackets, those earning the equivalent of $50 a month or less.
The government did not say how far the new plan would back down from the original version or when it would be introduced. The timing of the retreat, however, was clearly aimed at defusing worker discontent before Thursday's token strike.
Hours before the government's decision to revise its price increases, Solidarity circulated to Western reporters its own assessment of Poland's deeply troubled economy.
Drawn up by Solidarity "experts and advisers," the 13-page analysis said price increases for necessities would only lead to the "further pauperization of the nation" while failing to correct imbalances in the consumer market, waste, low-quality production and inefficient management.