SPECIAL ANALYSES - POLAND: THE NEW TRADE UNIONS

Created: 9/3/1980

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SPECIAL ANALYSES

POLAND: The New Trade Unions

Th* agreement granting free trade unions to Polish workers has mat detail* yet to be worked out ihat will determineone will be. The Polish regime olearly will use future negotiations to subvert or restrict the unions' freedom but probablu is reoonoilea to allowing them oome latitude.Bf

The regime has agreed to 'guarantee and ensure full respect for the new free trade unions and promised that the unions would have -full opportunities" to defend the material, social, and cultural needs of the workers The regime also agreed to allow the unions to express their views on national economic priorities, using their' own research bureau and publications, but left unclear how such advice would affect economic planning in Warsaw.

The workers agreed to adhere to Poland'sthat refers to Polandocialist state, tothe leading role of the Communist Party and totrain froat actingolitical party, toirm tand on public ownership of the means of production, and promised net to question Poland's international alliances.

These provisions do not yet carry the force ofregime has obligated itself toew lawunions and has guaranteed that the new unionsable to participate in its preparation. Unlike the provisions in. the agreement, however, no timeset for completing this draft. The negotiationslaw will provide the regime with the opportunityto define as narrowly as possible the role andof the new unions and will probably result inand heated

The key to whether the new unions will emergeenuine and effective force in representing workerlies in whether they gain the right to negotiate wage agreements, with the right to strike to support their Winning the right to bargain wage agreements would spell the end of central planning as now practicedoland. Wmmua%>

The strikers in Gdansk were the first to make the issue of free tradeey demand, despite the fact that unhappiness with the official trade unionsalmost from the beginning of the strikes in early July. Although these earlier strikers had beenith promises of unionhe strikers in Gdansk were more tenacious for several reasons. The Gdansk shipyards had been at the center of0 riots and disturbances, and the memories of the bloodshed then and the failure.of the regime to carry out its promises of union reform were -poignant and close to the surface. -In addition, the. strikes were led.by .individuals who had participated,0 events and who had vowed never again to be taken in by government blandishments. The strikers felt they could not trust the regime and wanted an organization of their own to defend their interests,/

The strikers in Gdansk succeeded because, 'in.ion to having 1 ffi

discipline and unity and avoided '

eakened regime that had early signaled its inability or unwillingness to use.force;and that had used up its few other options.

support from workers all over the

country, many of whom conducted sympathy strikes

olitical advice and support from in-

reat deal of publicity in thepublicity that put additionalthe regime to end the dispute as quickly

Th* fire* trad* union movement willreat deal of initial support end popularity. Distrust for theis widespread among all strata of society, and the formation of new unionsethod ofthis. It will be several months, however, before we will be able totell how this enthusiasm is translated into action. WmW

Workers outside the Baltic coast may not have the tenacity it takes to counteract the numerous roadblocks the regime can be expected to put in the way of free trade unions. The reform of the official trade unions, which the regime will probably try to rush through, could also drain some support for the free unions. The workersunited only by the shared goal of wresting some power from thenow put forward differing views over how the unions are to pp organized and whathey are no perform. Osss*

Th* regime may not feel much pressure on economic issues from the free trade unions in the immediate Onion organizers will be preoccupied with legal and other intricacies of setting up theirarticularly the negotiation of the new law on trade* unions. After this temporaryowever, the unions seem destined to start putting increasingly greater pres-sure on the regime, certainly by the end of tho year, (fl

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. One immediate consequence of the formation of the new unions may be an increase in worker morale andn the longer run, however, this will not..esult in greater productivity. The agreements thus far signed apparently undermine th*price increases, forthe Polish economy requires for more efficient allocation of resources.

mi The political victory that formation of independent .trade unions, represents also is not. likely to be followed by the increases in real income which the workersexpect. Disappointment over unrealizedin the standard of living could trigger new civil disturbances. 4smm>

In trying to subvert the concept ot free trade unions, the regime nay feel that the best it can hope for is to restrict them tr- influencing local economic issues. The party also nay hope that it can use the unionseans of engaging workers in the country's difficult economic problems and of convincing them to work harder. The party may be encouraged in this hope by the fact that the strikers agreed to delay implementstion of economicand promised to work extra hours to make up for lost production,

The government's most important goals, however, are to limit the damage to Its authority by:.

letting the "jiiona acta guarantor of political liberalization. The government startseak position, however, because itswith union organizers implicitly cor'evdesthemroader political role.

the unions from being Involved in the politically sensitive issue of setting national economic priorities. In order to confine union-management conflict to the local Level, the regime may be prepared to grant localmore responsibility in setting wages ami dispensing other economic benefits. .

-Preventing formationational federation of free trade unions. The regime obviously will betronger position If it can dealarge number of small unions. '

-Denying them funding from thehe newunions' greatest vulnerability is lack of money. Local leaders in Gdansk have initially agreed to allow the union to receive foreign funds. He would expect this decision to be reversed. .

The party will try to undermine the influence and attractiveness of tbe free trade unions by moving rapidly to make officially sponsored trade niona more responsive

to worker demands. It will heve some time to act because the free unions will not be able to establish themselves quickly. The party has already promised free unionwherever workers demand them and will probably be willing to let potential free union organizers run in such elections. The regime undoubtedly will al.to put more economic benefits at the disposal of its unions to entice workers to its side. It will need economic aid to compete with thc free trade unions, but the Soviets might considermall price to pay. %m%

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