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Section 1 Wary Poles sidestep unions new or old Chicago Tribune, Sunday, May 1, 1983 By Howard A. Tyner Chicago .Tribune WARSAW During the heyday of Solidarity a few years ago, the Kasprzak electronics assembly plant on Warsaw's west side was a solid union shop. About 80 percent of the factory's 6,000 workers were members of the independent labor movement. All the non-Solidarity non-Solidarity non-Solidarity employees belonged to government-sponsored government-sponsored government-sponsored unions. But times hove changed, and Jcrzy Ladno knows it better than most. Lean, dork-haired dork-haired dork-haired and in blue jeans, Ladno, 27, spent almost six years at Kasprzak working as a tope recorder inspector and repairman In the quality quality control unit. Now he is In charge of the new official union that is supposed to fill the breach left when Solidarity and all its affiliates were outlawed by an act of parliament last October. Ladno's job Is probably one of the toughest in Poland these days. "AT THE MOMENT we don't have a satisfactory number of members; it's relatively small," he. confessed with remarkable candor! "But we hope by the end of the year to make some significant gains." After nearly seven months of organizing, organizing, Ladno has little to boast about. His new union has a membership membership of about 200, of whom 60 are retirees. "No one expected it to be easy," he said with a shrug. Last October the Solidarity underground underground called on workers to boycott the new unions. Still, Ladno no longer gets threatening telephone calls from people people who want Solidarity restored. He said he had not been subjected to any physical abuse, as the new unions' organizers elsewhere have. NOW, HE SAID, it Is mostly a matter of trying in an unobtrusive way to show Kasprzak workers that it would be to their advantage to sign up for his group. "Most working people simply don't trust unions, I mean the old branch government-sponsoredj government-sponsoredj government-sponsoredj ones as well as Solidarity,'' he said. "People feel they were let down by their unions, so they don't believe the new unions can meet their needs. We run into that sort of resistance all the time." Pawcl Chocholak, director of the Polish government's Bureau for Cooperation Cooperation with the Trade Unions, also concedes that post-Solidarity post-Solidarity post-Solidarity workers are being "very cautious ' in their approach to the new iobor organizations. nPeople are waiting and watching," he said. "They want to see what happens before they do anything." Still, Chocholak presents figures that seem remarkably optimistic in light of Ladno's experience. He says unions have been registered for. 10,000 of the 40,000 eligible workplaces workplaces in this country, and new unions are being set up in 20,000 , more. OFFICIAL UNION membership, he claims, had reached 2.2 million by mid-April, mid-April, mid-April, although he concedes that 20 percent of the members are retired retired people. Government spokesman Jerzy Urban has forecast that the unions will embrace by the end of this year about 4 million of Poland's 14 million workers. By" comparison, Solidarity claimed 9.5 million members. The same legislation that swept away Solidarity and all previous unions laid down the regulations governing governing the new unions, which must be limited to individual workplaces and may not embrace entire regions or trades, as the independent unions of the hectic 1980-81 1980-81 1980-81 period did. Only In 1984 will authorities permit the organization of multiplont groupings within the same industry. Among other things, the October law sharply curtails the worker's right to strike, although at least technically it gives the unions authority authority to back up grievances with a work stoppage. According to Chocholak, organizers organizers have had more success so far in smaller shops. LARGER FACTORIES were the backbone of Solidarity, which presumably presumably has slowed organization efforts efforts there, Kasprzak, one of the 10 largest plants In Poland's electronics industry, industry, appeared to be typical. Ladno and about 20 colleagues set out last October, as soon as the enabling legislation was approved by the parliament, or Sejm, to organize their union. By Jan. 4 it had official registration, and its 100 members then voted to make Ladno their head. He said he was not a Communist Party member and had never joined Solidarity. But he was active in one of Kasprzak's old, Communist-dominated Communist-dominated Communist-dominated Communist-dominated branch unions. Ladno says the new union does not recruit openly because its leaders don't "want to give the impression we are agitating." Rather, informational informational broadcasts are presented weekly on the in-house in-house in-house radio station outlining the benefits of membership. membership. He and other full-time full-time full-time union workers also walk through the plant regularly to make themselves avail able for questions. Ladno and Chocholak played down the question of benefits a worker might gain by Joining the unions. As they described it, the primary perquisites perquisites are cash bonuses paid from , union funds to individual members on such occasions as marriage, the birth of a child or a death in the family. BUT THE PAYMENTS arc relatively relatively small, $275 for the birth of a child or $375 for the death of a member. Pressed for more details, Ladno said his union also would "make representations and offer other serv: , ices" to its members. That, many . nonunion members say, is where the catch ultimately will lie. "Suppose one of our members . wonts a new apartment," Ladno explained, explained, "or maybe he is trying to organize with friends to get a piece of land on which to build a cooperative cooperative house. Then we will intervene with local authorities on their behalf." behalf." POLISH SOURCES who oppose the government unions have said they expect this pattern of "negative incentive" incentive" to grow if membership does not live up to the government's expectations. expectations. What it means is that various benefits that are Indispensable Indispensable in such a heavily bureaucra-tized bureaucra-tized bureaucra-tized society as Poland simply would not be available to anyone who didn't join. Ladno said he was .sure that would never be the case. Meanwhile, he said, he was more concerned with signing up more members and im-, im-, im-, proving work conditions at the plant."
Clipped from Chicago Tribune, 01 May 1983, Sun, Page 5
01 May 1983, Sun • Page 5
01 May 1983, Sun • Page 5