Polish government and free trade unions close to compromise

A significant page of history may be written for Poland, and possibly the communist bloc as a whole, on Friday. This is when a compromise is expected to emerge in the dispute over how much freedom the newly independent trade unions will enjoy under a communist government recovering from a wave of strikes.

The government has agreed in principle to the right of the workers to form their own unions. But the government's insistence that the unions be properly registered and legally sanctioned has led to a series of wrangles between the court and the Solidarity free trade movement.

At issue momentarily is the union's draft statute, which a Warsaw court says does not meet the ideological definition stipulated in the Aug. 31 agreement between government and the strike committee. This requires acknowledgment of the Polish Constitution and the "leading role" of the Communist Party.

The union's draft mentions only the Constitution. Its leaders claim that the rest follows by implication. But the court, which has already approved 12 smaller unions' statutes in this area, wants explicit reference to the party role.

The court is expected to carve out a compromise on Friday, even though Lech Walesa, Solidarity leader, has said the union group will start functioning with or without the registration.

A new signal that a compromise is impending came Thursday night, however. One source said the difficulty between the union and court might be resolved by adding to the statute words to the effect that the union respected points raised by the court the Gdansk agreement.

During a recent tour of the industrial south, he mixed a "we-shall-not-wait" militancy with a number of conciliatory statements. He spoke of strikes as a last resort. "They are not our goal," he said, apparently reproofing colleagues urging drastic action over the delayed statute.

He also offered some sharp replies to East bloc attacks on the unions, telling outside critics they should keep out of Poland's affairs. "We are only making adjustments," he said. "It might be a good idea if they did the same."

Three of the East European states -- East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and now Romania -- have made harsh statements about events here.

Such reactions from East Berlin and Prague were predictable. A speech by Romania's party and state leader Nicolae Ceausescu was less so. His hand at home is as ideologically repressive as any. But strict "noninterference" in any shape or form in other countries' internal affairs has up to now been the keynote of frequent differences with the bloc line, both in international affairs and in relations between parties within the communist movement.

Mr. Ceausescu's strictures were as severe as those of Czechoslovakia's Vasil Bilak, a rigidly pro-Soviet hard-liner who played a dominant role in liquidating his country's 1968 reform movement.

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