of the 1970s saw the near collapse of the Polish economy. The price
of oil on world markets had rocketed following the decision of OPEC
(Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) to double the price
of crude oil in December 1973. Now, the Soviet Union, the main supplier
to Poland, increases the price of its oil. Against the background
of the world-wide recession, which had followed the OPEC decision,
there is a sharp decline in traditional Polish exports - coal, copper,
meat, textiles and television sets.
Polish debt exceeds 20 billion dollars. Food shortages become acute.
The government tries to impose price increases but meets with strong
opposition from the workers. The leader of the Solidarity trade
union in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, Lech Walesa, organises strikes
which soon spread throughout the country. The Government gives in.
The Gdansk Agreement, signed in August 1980, provides for pay increases,
a five-day working week, the right to strike, and the right to form
free trade unions.