Gdańsk Shipyard in hands of Ukrainian conglomerate Donbas

ISD Poland is paying 400 mln zloty for the money-losing shipyard, a place seared into the Polish psyche because it was where Solidarity started. The 1980 trade-union movement was the first step in Poland’s independence from the Soviet Union.
The shipyard is the second enormous Ukrainian investment in Poland, the daily Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper reported. Two years ago Donbas bought the steelworks in Czestochowa for 1.252 bln zloty.

ISD Chairman Oleksandr Pylypenko told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that the company wants to make the shipyard one of the top three in Europe. The operation’s 70 mln zloty loss in 2006 is one reason the Polish government decided to privatize it. Another was pressure from the EU, whose rules outlaw government subsidies for money-losing operations as a way of ensuring fair competition throughout the EU.

The European Commission has demanded that one of the facility’s two shipmaking bays be closed. It says the government’s 160 mln zloty in subsidies proves it has too much capacity.
ISD promises both to solve the excess-capacity problem and raise workers’ pay.

“We will start negotiations with the commission immediately,” said Konstanty Litwinow, director of ISD Poland. “There is a possibility we will return the subsidy money to the government rather than close a shipmaking bay.”

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa decries the sale of the shipyard to a non-Polish company. “It’s a crime against the Polish nation, its history and Gdansk,” he said. The shipyard should remain “in Polish hands,” he said.

The yard became part of Polish history on Dec. 16, 1970, almost 10 years before Solidarity, when troops killed dozens of shipyard workers striking over a surge in the price of meat and other food.

The Solidarity movement grew out of a shipyard workers’ strike in August 1980.

The strike spread to other shipyards, to public-transportation workers and then to workers at industries throughout Poland. It was the beginning of the end of the Communist regime, which settled the strike by agreeing to 21 workers’ demands, including allowing the formation of non-government-affiliated trade unions.

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