President Mikhail S. Gorbachev called for closer ties between American and Soviet trade unions at a meeting with two U.S. labor leaders, Pravda reported Thursday.
Gorbachev expressed support for American trade unionists "who are for a dialogue, for the development of relations between the Soviet and American trade unions," the Communist Party daily said."It is strange and incomprehensible when a dialogue has already been established on the governmental level but on the union level great obstacles are still encountered," Gorbachev was quoted as saying by the Soviet news agency Tass. He met Wednesday with AFL-CIO vice-presidents William Winpisinger and Jack Sheinkman.
As recently as October 1988, there were no official ties between Soviet labor unions and the AFL-CIO, based on the AFL-CIO's contention that Soviet labor organizations exist not to represent the interests of their membership but as government-controlled organizations to keep workers in line.
The Soviets say that is not true, and Gorbachev himself in 1987 called on Soviet unions to be more vigorous in defending the rank and file.
Gorbachev also told the labor officials that a national plan has been worked out to convert some defense factories over to civilian production, and several enterprises have been designated as prototypes, Pravda said.
The conversion is planned to follow defense spending cuts and help fulfill Gorbachev's promises to improve consumer goods production.
A Leningrad shipyard that has produced naval hardware for 150 years has already begun partially retooling to produce food processing equipment as well, Tass reported Thursday. The yard, which was not identified in the report, expects to have produced nearly $35 million in non-military goods by 1991, Tass said.
The partial conversion follows orders to Leningrad's shipbuilding industry to produce machines for cafes, pizzerias and snack bars, as well as equipment for sausage and dumpling making, Tass said.