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Polish Catholics offer plan to get regime, union talking

By Eric BourneSpecial correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / May 14, 1982



Vienna

Poland's martial law authorities are studying a platform for social accord and relaxation of martial law put forward by a committee of Roman Catholic laymen.

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The proposal envisions some sweeping concessions from the government eventually, notably the release of all internees and amnesty for those sentenced under martial law.

But it does not make these preconditions for talks. Rather, they are goals to work toward once the government and the suspended Solidarity union have agreed on certain essentials.

To get talks started, the laymen urge:

* A government guarantee of Solidarity's continued existence on the basis of the August 1980 agreement and of the union's full independence.

* Solidarity's acceptance of a share of responsibility for the present crisis and a pledge that, as a trade union, it would abstain from politics and political ''aspirations'' of the kind that provoked the imposition of martial law last year.

The Catholic group began working to damp down the long-running Polish crisis shortly after martial law was declared Dec. 13. The group is led by Dr. Stanislaw Stomma, former leader of the independent Catholic group Znak, which played a vigorous role in parliament for a time.

Its proposals were presented to the government of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski by Jerzy Ozdowski, a deputy premier, who is the first Catholic admitted to the executive branch of the regime.

The committee apparently drew on Znak's parliamentary experience: Although Znak was critical of the government, it was patriotic and realistic in its proposals of alternatives to government programs.

Znak supported the communist approach to industrialization and social betterment. But Dr. Stomma argued forcefully that, if real national unity was established, people could contribute to Polish life without being, or needing to be, socialist or communist.

It remains to be seen what the official reaction to this latest church initiative will be. Meanwhile other proposals on the charters, structure, and powers of future unions are under consideration.

Taken together, it seems to an outside observer, that they could form a basis for realistic legislation meeting the essential claims of both sides.

A mixed government-labor commission produced last year what became the foundation of a draft bill. This was largely agreed between the authorities and Solidarity itself. But in the tide of conflict that followed the union's Gdansk congress, the moderates were swept aside and martial law followed.

Inevitably, the government's stand has stiffened. It requires, for example, a far more specific acceptance by Solidarity of Poland's political and constitutional realities than did the annex to the union's original charter.

The government wants ''clear-cut statutory principles'' defining Solidarity as a nonpolitcal, bona fide trade union, concerned with basic unionism defending worker's conditions.

Solidarity will not be allowed to resume its original regional structure, which became last year's oppositional ''political'' base. Instead, future unions are likely to be organized by occupation, profession, and trade -- as their counterparts in the West are.

In other specifics, too, the proposals the government published in February do not on the surface differ all that much from what moderate opinion elsewhere would find relevant to a meaningful labor movement -- certainly in comparison with anything Poland has had before.

Government assurances pledge that unions will be self-managing and independent, and grant the unions the right to strike and a wide participatory role in socioeconomic matters in general. They include many of other points that were written into the Gdansk agreement, like information and access to the news media.

Solidarity may argue that making the right to strike an instrument of ''last resort'' is too restrictive. They may again balk at envisaged parliamentary powers to order suspension of a strike in the national interest.

But the proposed conciliation, arbitration, appeals to the courts, and ''cooling off'' periods in deadlocked disputes are all matters of course in government-labor relations in Western countries.

Polish conditions are vastly different. But, if the mutual guarantees proposed by the church were forthcoming, a new atmosphere might emerge in which reasonable Poles on both sides could hammer out the details of compromise on what is possible within the political limits.

Otherwise, there would seem to be no likely outcome but to keep union chief Lech Walesa locked up indefinitely. And to let Poland drift into the stagnant, ultra-hard-line ''normalization'' that prevails in Czechoslovakia rather than the moderate version the Hungarians have achieved.