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Why a Polish steel mill worries about an end to martial law

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Stefan Niziotek has the clipped, incisive style of a man who knows his job thoroughly. He occupies one of the ''hottest'' seats in the production management of Poland's crisis-racked economy.

Although everyone in Poland now regards the formal, complete ending of martial law as certain to come sometime next week, Mr. Niziotek views the prospect with some reserve.

He is director of the vast Nowa Huta steelworks near here. With a labor force of 32,000 it is the biggest industrial unit in the country.

He could use another 6,000 men if he could find them. But that is easier said than done, even with Nowa Huta's earning possibilities. The problem is finding them someplace to live.

But instead of seeing his work force grow, Niziotek expects to lose another 1 ,000 men when the last martial law restrictions are removed. (Nova Huta's work force reached a high of 39,000 in the late '70s.) The lifting of martial law will end the freeze on labor that has meant workers have to have consent of the military to leave one job for another.

It is not just that steelmaking is one of the hardest jobs there is, but also that younger men aren't so eager to take such jobs these days.

The money is good. The steel mill pays well above the national average. Skilled workers make a basic wage of 20,000 zlotys (about $225) a month. With overtime, they can boost that to 30,000.

Niziotek believes he could draw men from other industries and rebuild the labor force to the 39,000 of the mill's record output of the late '70s, ''if only I can give them flats.''

In this respect, although Nowa Huta's production is climbing slowly, it remains in the doldrums just like the rest of Poland.


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