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Polish Teachers Launch Nationwide Strike

Unions demand big pay rises as the government splashes out on costly new benefit programs.

8 April 2019

Thousands of schools across Poland are expected to be closed today as teachers begin a nationwide strike over pay and government education policy.

 

The Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) said up to 80 percent of schools indicated they would support the walkout, Radio Poland reports.

 

Talks between three teachers’ unions and the government broke down yesterday when the ZNP and another union stuck by their demand for a monthly salary increase of 1,000 zlotys ($265). Teachers’ pay ranges from 3,045 zlotys to 5,603 zlotys a month, Reuters reports.

 

Teachers are also angry over the government’s education reforms and costly social policies they say have passed them by.

 

ZNP leader Slawomir Broniarz said the strike would be the biggest in the education sector since 1993.

 

"We are ready to convince the government that this strike is not only economically motivated, but that this strike is also to defend the quality of education, which has been damaged in recent years," Broniarz said.

 

Looking ahead to the European Parliament elections in May, the government headed by the nationalist, conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) has announced a wide-ranging social welfare package expected to cost 40 billion zloty, or around 2 percent of GDP.

 

The plan “dismayed” Finance Minister Teresa Czerwinska (pictured), Politico wrote before the strike was called, as the government was left scrambling to find the money for the plan without pushing the budget deficit near the EU’s recommended limit of 3 percent of GDP.

 

The deficit stood at just 0.5 percent of GDP in 2018, but could reach 2.8 percent next year, the Fitch rating agency said last week.

 

Teachers “feel they've been left out of generous benefit schemes aimed at larger families and the elderly – key ruling party constituencies,” Politico says.

 

 

  • The ZNP headed opposition to the government’s school reform in 2017. The three-tier system established in 1999 was abolished, eliminating middle schools and restoring the old system of eight years of mandatory elementary school followed by optional high school. Critics also accused the PiS of imposing its traditional, nationalist ideology on school curricula.

 

  • The European Commission last week launched a new infringement procedure against Poland, the latest measure to try and reverse the government’s legal reforms that Brussels says threaten judicial independence and the rule of law. The Commission also rebuked Romania’s government over two proposed measures altering judicial legislation that critics say would protect ruling Social Democratic Party officials from corruption investigations, Reuters reported.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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