Although agreement on concrete details was elusive, Solidarity and the government agreed on a wage indexing scheme to compensate workers for up to 80% of price increases. Inflation in Poland exceeded 60% last year, and economists predict an even higher rate this year.
Order on Wage Demands
Solidarity and the government believe that the wage indexing plan will impose some order on workers' wage demands and at least hold inflation to a predictable rate.
While the talks on these three major areas were going on, a series of "sub-table" discussions were concluded in eight other areas, some of them resulting in agreements that could be far reaching. The subjects under discussion at the sub-tables were agriculture, housing, environment, health, mass media, mining, youth and legal reform.
The agreements on these issues will have to be implemented by legislative action, some of which may require lengthy debate and further political struggle.
As a result of the agreement on the mass media, Solidarity will be given immediate permission to publish a weekly newspaper, with daily newspapers to follow. Solidarity will also be allowed to publish regional weekly newspapers.
The union failed in its bid for an independent radio and television station, but it will be allowed a weekly 30-minute television program. In addition, local television stations will have to provide Solidarity with five minutes of time daily.
Farmers Can Sell to All
In the agreement on agriculture, farmers will be allowed to buy materials and supplies from any source and sell products to any buyer, thereby freeing them from selling only to state agencies.
Major restrictions on the sale and purchase of farmland are to be removed, allowing farmers to accumulate as much land as they can afford to buy. Rural government units will be allowed to set up their own development projects, financed and built under local control.
In youth affairs, it was agreed that "free, unrestricted formation of youth associations" is to be allowed and that youth organizations should have the right to publish and meet freely.
In the economically vital area of coal mining, both sides agreed to a five-day week for miners, allowing miners to work a sixth day on a voluntary basis. The two sides also agreed, in principle, to the closing of a number of outdated and inefficient mines and to redeploy miners to other sites.
In health, environment and housing, all sides agreed that present conditions in these areas are abysmal and need urgent attention.
There were unresolved questions in each field. For example, the two sides were unable to reach agreement on the issue of nuclear power. Solidarity wants construction halted on two nuclear power plants. The government, which says it wants to end its dependence on coal, is insisting on going ahead with the development of nuclear power.
While the round-table agreements were taken by some observers as a historic turning point for Poland, the road ahead for the nation remains unclear, and potential trouble spots are evident.
At the moment, the agreement is a triumph for Walesa, who in August called a halt to last year's second wave of strikes by accepting a government offer to open negotiations. Many of the union's hard-liners, suspecting government duplicity, advised against it.
At a meeting of the National Executive Commission of Solidarity before he signed the accord, Walesa told his colleagues that the union has achieved its main goal--legalization--and that it could fight for further reforms after it is registered and organized.
"Before Poland and all the world, I am saying that we have achieved what we promised to do," he said.