In a departure from standard Soviet practices, Communist Party leader Yuri Andropov has made a surprise visit to a large machine tool factory here, meeting with workers and discussing their problems.
The unannounced visit to the plant suggested that the new Soviet leader was going directly to the grass roots level to seek support for what is believed to be a new package of economic measures he is preparing to revive the economy.
The government news agency Tass tonight gave a lengthy account of his visit to the Ordzonikidze plant and reproduced in detail Andropov's questions to workers and their answers.
Although Tass did not indicate when the visit took place, employes of the Moscow machine tool factory said Andropov appeared at the plant in midafternoon Friday without security guards and the large retinue of officials that normally accompanies the Soviet leaders.
Andropov's predecessors frequently visited various factories, but such visits were prepared in advance and usually included a political rally that provided the leaders with an audience to announce policy decisions.
This time, however, everything was different. The 68-year-old Soviet leader conducted conversations on the factory floor while workers continued their work. He asked people about their salaries and specific problems. The plant director was quoted as saying that young people did not want to work in factories and that he did not have enough skilled workers.
In a further departure from previous practices, Andropov made a speech during a work break. He said that it has become a standard procedure to "adjust the plan" that set production targets, adding, "I must admit that I never heard of an upward adjustment of the established plan" but always of a "lowering" of the targets.
"It is easy to see where this leads," he continued, according to Tass. "The output is lessening while the wages remain unchanged. Moreover, bonuses are quite often paid for the fulfillment of the lowered plan."
On the nationwide scale, Andropov said, "this results in a gap between the volume of goods in stores and the amount of money held by the population."
One should not expect "miracles," he told the workers, stressing the need for greater productivity. The state cannot create goods that the workers have not produced, he said.
"The wage increases, if not ensured by production of goods and services, cannot provide the real increase of material well being," Andropov said.
The Soviet leader emphasized the need for greater labor discipline and improving the quality of production. "The better the state of affairs in our national economy, the stronger will be our international positions and the more durable will be peace on earth," he added.
The questions he raised in conversations with workers dealt with the problems of factory life. Why are young people not interested in working in factories? Why are women given physically taxing assignments on the shop floor? What are the reasons for absenteeism and lax labor discipline?
The unusual visit also ended on a somewhat unusual note. Andropov said that the new leadership demanded discipline not only from workers and technicians but also from all levels, including those in ministerial positions.