WARSAW — Evidence of a factional split in Poland's new, official trade union movement has emerged in a bitter attack by one of the new unions on the government's economic policy.
In a formal statement reportedly barred from publication by government censors, the new Federation of Metallurgical Workers accuses the government of "deviating from the principles of a socialist economy" and lying about the public acceptability of food price increases.
It also carries a veiled warning that bitterness among its members over Poland's declining standard of living could lead the union to support protest strikes as the only way of preserving its own authority.
"We do not want to be, and cannot be, a mere paper tiger," the statement declares. It claims the right not merely to consult with the state on economic policy but to conduct negotiations on matters affecting its members' welfare.
The six-page document, made available to Western reporters, is signed by Wlodzimierz Lubanski, chairman of the federation, which claims 367,000 members in 524 industrial enterprises. It is dated Feb. 18, two weeks before the government imposed price increases averaging 35% for bread, milk, flour and seven other basic foods. Other boosts are to follow in April and June.
120 New Unions
The metallurgical federation is one of 120 new, official trade unions the government has cultivated since 1982 in an effort to replace Solidarity, the outlawed independent trade union. The new unions, which coalesced last November under a national coordinating council intended to give them a unified public voice, claim a total membership of 5 million, about half that of Solidarity before it was crushed by martial law in 1981.
Many Poles, however, view the new movement as a sham designed to give Polish workers little more than the impression of representation. The head of the movement is a 55-year-old former blast furnace worker named Alfred Miodowicz, a member of the Communist Party for 25 years.
The metallurgical union's strident attack on the economic policies of Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski's regime sounds a distinctly sour note in the government's carefully orchestrated reconstruction of an official trade union movement. The attack goes far beyond the national trade union council's stern but polite criticism last month, which limited itself to worrying that the new price boosts would bring a further lowering of the country's standard of living without any lasting economic benefit.
The metallurgical union, by contrast, bluntly warns that to accept further increases in food costs, with a consequent drop in the standard of living, could mean the end of the new trade union movement.
'Path to Self-Annihilation'
"As a trade union, we can scarcely accept such a solution if we still want to remain a union and preserve at least our previous authority among work crews," the document says. "Acceptance of a further lowering of living standards is a straight path to self-annihilation of the unions. We are astonished and frightened that the (state) has not recognized this."
Although the economic effects of the food price increases are painful, it says, the "social costs are more dangerous." It speaks of "voices of bitterness" among the union's members who suspect that Poland's bureaucratic elite is interested only in preserving its own comfortable position.
Such bitter words, the paper warns, "may turn into deeds." It appears to suggest that the union would support any legally organized strike initiative from its more than 500 constituent factory units, which it says are independent and self-governing.
The union's position paper accuses the government's minister for prices, Zdzislaw Krasinski, of lying when he said last month that a great many skilled workers understood the need for food price hikes.
Reflecting a hard-line Marxist viewpoint, the paper goes on to attack policies of the Jaruzelski regime that have allowed a blossoming of small-scale private enterprise to bolster the consumer economy and fostered continued investments by Western firms in joint ventures.
"Our union members are indignant at such practices," the paper contends. "They write that . . . the present attempts at economic reform in our economy, while using socialist slogans, are following a capitalistic pattern."