Prime Minister Beata Szydło: We must remember all heroes of August 1980

I will never let anyone destroy Polish mining, said Prime Minister Beata Szydło during the celebration of the 36th anniversary of the signature of Jastrzębie-Zdrój Agreement and establishment of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarność.”

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Photo: P. Tracz / Chancellery of the Prime Minister

The celebration began with a holy mass at the Church of Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church in Jastrzębie-Zdrój. Prime Minister Beata Szydło spoke at the Jastrzębie-Zdrój Agreement memorial, emphasising the role of this event and its huge impact on the fate of Poland and Poles.

During the celebration, Prime Minister Szydło was accompanied inter alia by the Minister of Energy Krzysztof Tchórzewski, Minister of Sport and Tourism Witold Bańka, Vice-Minister of Energy Grzegorz Tobiszowski, and Vice-Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy Stanisław Szwed.

“You opened the door of freedom”

Starting her speech, Prime Minister Beata Szydło said that Jastrzębie-Zdrój and “Zofiówka” mine were symbols of hard work and struggle for freedom. The head of the government recalled that 36 years ago miners opposed the Communist authorities. Miners’ demands were very simple. Today for us in 2016, especially for many young people, these demands seem incomprehensible because what the miners fought has since become the norm. Beata Szydło recalled that miners demanded free Saturdays and Sundays and basic work tools, such as boots, gloves, and shovels.

Decent work and decent life were achieved by protests of the people who, back in the 1980s, had the courage to stand for one another. They had the courage to stand up to defend the freedom of their homeland, Polish families and employees. Thanks to August Agreements, which form a part of the Jastrzębie-Zdrój Agreement, the door of freedom opened slightly. For that they deserve honour and glory. For that, I thank all the participants of those events from the depth of my heart, said the Prime Minister.

Memory of all heroes of August 1980

We must remember all heroes of the August. Remind people of all of them, not only those in the headlines, said the Prime Minister, adding that it was our duty.

The head of the government recalled “Anna Solidarity” – Anna Walentynowicz who stood up for the weakest. Today the responsibility of the Polish state is to honour and thank everyone who then had the courage to stand on the side of truth, said the Prime Minister. In her view, we needed to help the heroes of these events who find themselves in a very difficult situation.

Fight for Polish mining sector

You don’t need to remind me about the mining industry. The fate of my family is tied with mining. I grew up looking at mineshafts. I would never let anyone destroy Polish mining, declared Prime Minister Beata Szydło.

We must fight for the Polish mining sector because of energy security and economic independence of Poland. We will do it consistently as we have so far and we will talk. Because our predecessors did not talk, they did not sit at a table with you, said the head of the government. She added it was necessary to introduce reforms and changes in this priority sector of the economy. We sit down and talk about the need for joint decisions on the development of mining. The future of the Polish mining industry is our shared responsibility: of the government, miners, trade unions, and the local government, said the Prime Minister. She declared that her government would take actions and decisions that will lead to development of Polish mining, which will become promising, modern, and competitive.

We have to clearly say that the time when mining enriched some people, when mining was abused, when the Polish state, mining, and miners suffered losses has come to an end, said Beata Szydło.

Proposals for Silesia and actions to ensure decent standard of living for Poles

We have prepared a metropolitan act for Silesia, which will soon be proceeded. There will be a development programme for Silesia, informed the Prime Minister. We can see the effects of government action: unemployment is on the decline. Recently, unemployment here in the region is only slightly above 7%. But we need time to carry out these good changes, added Beata Szydło.

For the government of Law and Justice, which I have the honour to lead, those August Demands, put on paper in 1980, are the programme basis of our activity. We will always be guided in our actions by what Polish citizens expect of us. In dialogue and talks we introduce changes to ensure that everyone, not just selected elites, as demanded in 1980 by miners here in Jastrzębie-Zdrój, have decent life and decent work, declared Prime Minister Beata Szydło. She recalled that her government had implemented a number of solutions to put these ideas into practice, such as the “Family 500+” programme, free medications for people above 75, higher minimum salary, and higher hourly pay.

Importance of Jastrzębie-Zdrój Agreement

The agreement concluded on 3 September 1980 in Jastrzębie-Zdrój was the third document, following the Gdańsk and Szczecin accords, signed in the summer of 1980 between the government and workers.

The agreement confirmed the Gdańsk arrangements and, among other things, abolished a four-brigade system of work in the mining sector that required work seven days a week. An important change was the introduction of allowances for separation from families. In addition, the miners were promised that their salaries would increase at the same pace as the costs of living, and the authorities agreed to many sectoral demands of miners.

Many historians believe that the strikes in Silesia that resulted in the Jastrzębie-Zdrój Agreement had an impact on the pace and effectiveness of the negotiations in Gdańsk and Szczecin. The Jastrzębie-Zdrój Agreement sealed prior accords.

Establishment of “Solidarity”

The strikes in August 1980 led to establishment of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarność,” the first legal trade union in the Communist countries and one fully independent from the authorities. The signing of the agreement between the government committee and the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee in Gdańsk on 31 August 1980 and the establishment of “Solidarity” paved the way for the 1989 transformations. 

On 17 September 1980 delegates from various centres in Poland decided to establish a joint Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarność.” A National Coordinating Commission of “Solidarność” was appointed and draft statutes were adopted, later submitted for registration in the Voivodeship Court in Warsaw on 24 September. On 10 November 1980 the Supreme Court registered the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarność.” Shortly thereafter, the union had almost 10 million members. Trade unions were formed in all enterprises and institutions, although the then authorities did not allow them in the Polish Army or Civic Militia.

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