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Work stoppages held in southern Poland over job security, pensions

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WARSAW, Poland - 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 labour code, raise minimum guaranteed wages and 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.

Responding to the actions, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said no protest should be ignored, but warned that the demands could act against people seeking jobs.

He also denied accusations that the government refused to discuss the issue with trade unions. He said that Solidarity leader Piotr Duda missed four out of the recent eight regular meetings among the government, employees and unions.

Earlier, Economy Minister Janusz Piechocinski said that in the talks the unions 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 emissions.

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