Workers turn to prayer to save Polish shipyard 

25th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The shipyard is likely to face massive layoffs in the midst of the global economic crisis.

Warsaw -- Workers at Poland's Gdynia shipyard -- deep in debt and earmarked for privatisation -- are literally praying for divine intervention to save their jobs.

"We're praying for a miracle -- it seems only that could save us now," Marek Lewandowski, spokesman for the Solidarity trade union at the Gdynia yard, said earlier this month. "We fear the financial crisis will make it impossible to find an investor who can get the kind of credit required to buy us out. The situation is essentially hopeless and this is why we're encouraging workers to pray the rosary."

Some 5,300 workers at the shipyard face layoffs if an investor is not found by the end of May, Lewandowski said.

Roma Sarzynska of Poland's Industrial Development Agency signalled earlier this month that there is an investor interested in buying the yard, but declined to give details.

"The sale of both the Gdynia and Szczecin shipyards will be formally announced on March 8 to 9 and the sale must be finalised by May 31," Sarzynska told AFP. "We are currently appraising the value of the assets of both yard to determine a sale price which will remain confidential at all times."

Last year, Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government agreed to a European Commission plan to sell off Poland's two debt-ridden shipyards to recover public subsidies deemed illegal under EU competition rules.

Using proceeds from the sale, the state-owned Baltic Sea yards in Gdynia and Szczecin will have to return 1.7 billion euros (2.2 billion dollars) in subsidies received since 2002. The Szczecin yard has a workforce of 4,500.
The two yards, along with the Gdansk shipyard, are highly symbolic.

Waves of worker protests in the yards during the 1970s and 1980s gave birth to the trade union Solidarity in the Gdansk yard in 1980. Led by electrician Lech Walesa, the trade union spearheaded the peaceful overthrow of communist rule in 1989.

With 90 percent of Poles declaring themselves Roman Catholic, Poland is one of Europe's most devout countries.


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