Pope John Paul II spoke out in defense of workers' freedom yesterday, and in a thinly veiled reference to the martial-law crackdown in his native Poland, condemned attempts to "flout" the right of working people to form and run their own unions.

Addressing the U.N. International Labor Organization at the Palace of Nations, he called for "a new social order of solidarity without frontiers" to promote workers' well-being. He asserted workers have a fundamental right "to freely form or join an association of their own choosing and to run it."

Apparently referring to the government-labor confrontation that led to martial law in Poland six months ago, the pope condemned attempts to outlaw unions as well as "uncompromising opposition" to government authority.

Central to the pope's hour-long speech was a theme that the worker's well-being is more important than economic profit. "It is not utopian to assert that the world of work can also be made a world of justice," he said.

The pope, on his 14th trip abroad, gave several speeches to international organizations during his 12-hour stay in Geneva, and said an indoor mass that drew 25,000 faithful.

The pope also heard a personal appeal for his support from a Palestine Liberation Organization official for Palestinian war victims in Lebanon, and stressed the need for stepped up relief efforts in the war-torn country.