WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Thousands of workers held work stoppages in Poland's southern industrial region on Tuesday to demand more job security, higher pensions and government protection for coal mines.
The four-hour protests in the Silesia region were led by the Solidarity trade union. The protesters called for the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk to improve the labor code to give companies more work time flexibility in times of crisis, and to restructure the strapped and inefficient health care system.
The stoppages involved coal mines, local railways and some schools. In a sign of support some hospitals and city transport flew Solidarity flags. Union members also held support actions in the cradle of Solidarity, Gdansk and some other cities across Poland.
Economy Minister Janusz Piechocinski said the government had been in talks with the unions, which had pressed "unacceptable" demands that would burden the already tight state budget.
Silesia was Poland's most prosperous region under communism, but it has suffered under the market economy since 1990 as many mines and steel mills have been closed down.
Bowing to the power of tens of thousands of miners, some previous governments have agreed to lenient lay-off and pension terms for them. Poland still depends on black coal for much of its electricity, a policy that has put Warsaw at odds with nations that are cutting down on carbon gas emission.