2 Polish Shipyards Close, 9,000 Jobs Lost

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Two major Polish shipyards which relied on government subsidies and were recently sold on European Union orders officially closed production on Friday.

The shipyards in the Baltic cities of Szczecin and Gdynia were sold by the Polish government earlier this month to United International Trust. The company has vowed to resume shipbuilding there, but has not yet made any firm commitments.

The sale and the loss of some 9,000 jobs was ordered by the EU, which said that some euro3.3 billion which the two yards have received in government aid since 2002 violated competition rules and was illegal. It demanded viability from the yards.

Laid off workers are being paid severance equivalent to between $6,250 and $18,750 per person. They are being offered training for new jobs and financial aid until they find work.

The future of the shipyards is an emotional issue in Poland due to their massive support for the Solidarity freedom movement in the 1980s that eventually led to the toppling of communism.

The key shipyard, in Gdansk, where Solidarity was born under the leadership of Lech Walesa, has been sold to a Ukrainian investor who is currently seeking approval for his business plan from the EU.

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