New chairman of Solidarity trade union profiled

Hoover's Online, 28 September 2002, 6:43am

Warsaw, 27 September: Janusz Sniadek, the hitherto deputy to Marian Krzaklewski and head of the Gdansk Region of the Solidarity trade union, was on Friday [27 September] evening elected as the new chairman of the Independent Self-governing Trade Union [NSZZ] Solidarity. When Krzaklewski withdrew from the election, Sniadek remained as the sole candidate. Sniadek received 232 votes out of 335, which constituted 69 per cent of the votes. It would have been enough to receive 168 votes to win.

“I am aware that for most of you, Solidarity is sacred. Most of you have sacrificed to it your hearts and your lives. I am aware of the value of this,” the newly-elected chairman assured delegates. He added that he was also aware of the burden of responsibility that he had taken on with this post, but he was not afraid that he would not cope since he was “with friends”…

Asked by journalists whether something would now change in the union, he replied that a formal change in the post of chairman had already taken place. “But the most important thing now is to change the face of the union, to take off its political face,” he said. He also stressed that in the work of the union he would be directed by the public good. Asked whether he did not feel that he was not Krzaklewski's man in his new post, Sniadek stated that “in such situation, a man's baggage drags along behind him”.

Thanking the outgoing Solidarity chairman, Marian Krzaklewski, for his 12 years of work, the trade unionists gave him a bouquet and a long standing ovation. When Sniadek and Krzaklewski posed together for a photograph, the hall chanted: “Solidarity”.

Earlier on, whilst still presenting his programme as a candidate, Sniadek used the words Lech Walesa used after he had been elected president [in 1990]: “I want to be strong through your strength and wise through your wisdom”. The new chairman noted that he wanted to be active since “enormous challenges” stood before Solidarity. “But the union is not an army. Decisions here cannot be made in authoritarian fashion. These must be joint decisions,” he stressed. He also gave assurances that he would not do anything without the knowledge and consent of the trade unionists …

The head of the Mining and Energy Secretariat of Solidarity, Kazimierz Grajcarek, who was one of the earlier candidates for the post of chairman, feels that Sniadek's victory is the result of an arrangement that particular regions of Solidarity have come to with each other. “The arrangement won here, and this is bad for the union. The new chairman is not capable of changing anything,” he told PAP. According to him, Sniadek is a candidate who emerged as a result of the games of particular regions and secretariats. Asked for his opinion on the subject of Krzaklewski's resignation from seeking further re-election, Grajcarek stated that it was “better late than never”. “But this was a very difficult decision,” he added.

“I am surprised at the way the man has been treated. Arrangements count here—it should be agreed between the members of the regions before the congress who it is that is trusted and who is not,” PAP was told by the head of railway workers' Solidarity, Stanislaw Kogut, when he assessed Krzaklewski's resignation. Asked about the new head of Solidarity, Kogut stated that he was a hard-working and conscientious person.

The deputy head of the Mazowsze Region of Solidarity, Arkadiusz Sliwinski, feels that Krzaklewski's resignation from running was a correct decision. “The lack of support from delegates showed and verified that lack of sufficient trust from them. The decision to resign must have been very difficult,” he told PAP.

The 47 year-old Sniadek has hitherto been Marian Krzaklewski's deputy and the head of the Gdansk Region of the union. He is a shipyard engineer from Gdynia and has been active in the union since 1981.

Sniadek was born in Sopot on 26 May 1955. In 1981, he graduated from the marine engineering department of the Gdansk Technical University with a masters degree in mechanical engineering. After completing his studies, in 1981 he started work at the Paris Commune Shipyard in Gdynia (today the Gdynia Shipyard Joint Stock Company) and started activity in Solidarity. He was active in the underground structures of the trade union during the martial law period. Up until 1989, he worked as a designer in the shipyard's construction design office.

In 1989, he was elected to the post of chairman of the enterprise commission of Solidarity at the Gdynia Shipyard. He held this post for three terms, until 1998.

He was a member of the Gdansk Regional Board of NSZZ Solidarity in the years 1992–95. In June 1998, he was elected the chairman of the Gdansk Region. In mid-2002, he was again elected as the head of Solidarity in Gdansk. He became a member of the National Commission of NSZZ Solidarity in 1995 and the deputy chairman of this commission in 1997.