The Polish government published regulations governing the registration of the new independent trade unions today, in effect giving the fledgling worker movement an official green light.
Thousands of Poland's 13 million workers have indicated that they will pull out of existing unions to create new ones that they hope will be more independent of Communist Party control and more attuned to worker interests. The right to form independent unions was a key concession won by strikers at shipyards and mines last month.
Nevertheless, embarking on a course never before tried in the Soviet Bloc, union organizers have confessed to much confusion and uncertainty on just how to proceed.
Information centers have been established throughout Poland to advise founding committees on how to set up new unions. So far, though, no clear picture of what Poland's future trade union structure might look like has emerged -- whether, for instance, the new unions will have a regional character or be organized by profession, or whether a new national umbrella association of trade unions will be formed to replace or coexist with the official Central Council of Trade Unions.
In addition, organizers have complained of harassment, marked by the distribution of leaflets and comments to workers warning that if they join the new unions, they are likely to lose such extra benefits as paid vacations and special loans now provided by the existing, government-backed unions. The financing and benefit programs of the new unions are still far from being worked out, however.
Polish authorities have denied responsibility for these scare tactics, reaffirming their commitment to let the new organizations come into being.
Under the registration rules printed today, the new unions will be inserted formally into the Polish national bureaucracy. The regulations, intended to stay in effect until the Polish parliament ratifies a new trade union bill still in the drafting stage, require that founding committees of the new unions register with the Warsaw district court or the Central Council of Trade Unions.
In each case the new union's name, its range of membership and a list of representatives must be supplied. The court has the right to reject the registration if for some reason it finds the new union to be in conflict with the Polish constitution or other laws.
If rejected, a new union can lodge an appeal with the Polish Supreme Court.
Representatives of the new unions from around Poland plan to gather Wednesday in Gdansk -- the seaport whose shipyards were a major center of the summer's militant labor activity -- to discuss common problems and consider the formation of an umbrella organization.
Meanwhile, the Polish government renewed its attack today on the country's dissidents, portraying them as forces said to be poisoning the worker movement. In an officially published account of a weekend meeting of Warsaw district Communist Party activists, Party Secretary Henryk Szablak was quoted as saying that while the new trade unions are being vigorously discussed by workers, dissident groups persistently try to break their unity and use the workers for the dissidents' own advantage.
Szablak singled out for attack the Committee for Social Self-Defense, known here as KOR, Poland's leading dissident group.
"The messengers from KOR visit the plants," he said. These are "their experts and advisers who create false mirages and who want to enter the files of the working class. But their targets are quickly unmasked by the workers. The workers are united more strongly than ever and disassociate themselves from the dirty political games."
Szablak's remarks signaled what appears to be an official line of maintaining sharp criticism of political dissidents -- referred to frequently as "anti-socialist forces -- while regarding worker protests as legitimate.
In response, the committee issued a statement today denying that it aspires to a political role in the country. "KOR was and is and will be a social institution, but not a political party," the statement said.
The Communist Party newspaper, Trybuna Ludu, took note of the two-week anniversary of the signing of the major strike agreements in a front-page editorial.
"This big event started important changes in our country," the paper wrote. "The agreement is believed to be a mutual social agreement and is in the process of realization now."
While noting that strikes are still underway in various parts of Poland, the paper said there is "no single answer" to explain this. "In some factories the strikes are being continued because workers are not sure whether the Gdansk agreement applies to them. This agreement applies to every factory in Poland," the paper declared.