The management of the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland has appealed for workers from neighbouring Ukraine to help fill jobs vacated by emigrating Polish workers. The shipyard, which once employed 17,000 workers, was birthplace of the Solidarity movement 25 years ago. Today there are barely 3,000 workers left. The Polish economy has seen huge changes since the fall of communism. The economy is much bigger, more modern and productivity has risen dramatically. But for the heavy industries built up under Communism - many serving the old Soviet military-industrial complex - it has been a testing time. Poland's shipyards are a case in point.
In terms of tonnage built, Poland ranks fifth in the world - after South Korea, Japan, China and Germany. But Polish shipyards are struggling to survive. Many of the ships being built today were contracted five or so years ago, when world prices were low. Among the Polish shipbuilding industry's weaknesses, experts cite persistent over-manning, outdated construction facilities, and the departure of skilled workers. Among its strengths, they cite good research and development facilities, cheap labour costs, and a good network of domestic equipment suppliers. Just as Poles have sought new employment opportunities in Western Europe, so people from Poland's poorer eastern neighbour, Ukraine, have been seeking work in central Europe.