The Solidarity trade union on Monday called for a nationwide labor protest if further pay negotiations with the government fail.
"There is a fear that continuing the reforms using the means employed so far may end with a violent catastrophe," said a resolution passed by the union's congress.The resolution, adopted before the congress adjourned Monday, authorized union leaders to continue talks with the government on a controversial excess wage tax.
Poland is beset by a wave of strikes and protests directed against the excess wage tax, which is levied on state firms that raise workers' wages above a threshold set by the government. Workers are demanding higher pay, but their employers are refusing the demands to avoid the tax.
Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki told the congress Sunday that rejection of the government's austere economic policy would mean a "collapse of the reform process." He ruled out any concessions to the pay demands.
The congress labeled as "a failure" three inconclusive rounds of Solidarity negotiations with the government on reforming the tax. It also authorized the union leadership to proclaim a "nationwide protest action" if no compromise is reached soon.
But the resolution did not set a deadline for compromise or specify the form of protest.
About 500 union delegates, representing 2.3 million Solidarity members, met this weekend in the Baltic port of Gdansk, where the Eastern bloc's first independent trade union was formed in 1980.
The congress decided to put forward a small representation for upcoming parliamentary elections, set for May 26, to defend workers' interests.