Poland is pleading with the European Union for more time to sell three shipyards, warning that the EU is threatening to bankrupt the yards and throw thousands out of work.

Polish Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad said Thursday Poland needs until the end of September to work out a proper restructuring plan and sell the yards to private investors.

EU officials have said they may force Poland to stop government subsidies of the shipyards as early as next week. The three yards wold have to refund more than $1 billion in state aid to the Polish government.

The EU says the subsidies violate EU rules.

Poland says forcing the yards to give back the money would bankrupt them and cost thousands of jobs.

The three Baltic Sea shipyards are in Gdansk, Gdynia, and Szczecin. Gdansk was the  birthplace of the Solidarity labor movement, which led to the eventual collapse of Polish communism in the 1980's.

Solidarity led a shipyard workers strike in Gdansk in 1981. The strike spread to other industries across Poland and forced authorities to recognize Solidarity as the first fully authorized labor union in a communist-ruled country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.