Back to the Yard

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GDANSK, Poland: Lech Walesa returned to his old job today as an electrician at the Gdansk shipyard. Poland's former president has been on unpaid leave since he left the birthplace of the movement that eventually toppled communist rule in 1989 to become Solidarity's national chairman. Walesa claims he needs to return to work because presidents are not provided with pensions under current Polish law. "I'm without money for living, and it's necessary for me to work," he said after arriving at the shipyard in a state-owned chauffeur-driven Mercedes, a perk he is entitled to as a former president. But Walesa won't be punching a clock for long. He will take an unpaid leave next week to go an a U.S. lecture tour. "This is such a cabaret," says TIME's Tadeusz Kucharski from Warsaw. "He's just trying to demonstrate that the ruling people haven't yet solved the problem of former presidents and their pensions. He will pretend to work because he wants to attract attention." Kucharski points out that the situation is mostly Walesa's fault. "During his five years in office Walesa never addressed the issue of pensions. He didn't do it because he was 100 percent sure that he would be reelected." In January, a group of deputies drafted a law giving former presidents half their monthly salary for life, which amounts to $1,200. They will be paid an additional $1,200 a month for office operating expenses. "The law will probably be passed next week, and it will take a couple of months before it is enforced," reports Kucharski. "Walesa knows that the problem will soon be solved and his back-to work routine is just an empty gesture."