Polish Teachers Strike Over Pay, Spending Cuts
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ More than 300,000 public school teachers went on strike Wednesday, demanding higher wages and more government spending for education.
The strike, affecting 60 percent of public schools, could threaten examinations Tuesday to determine which high school graduates go to college.
Staged by the Solidarity trade union, the walkout was part of a larger action by state workers who oppose government budget cuts for medical service, education, culture and science. Education spending is down 1 percent this year.
The reductions are part of a government austerity plan to control inflation and reduce the national budget deficit while the old socialist economy is reshaped as a capitalist system.
Medical workers in several provinces began their protest Wednesday by limiting services at hospitals to urgent cases. The action may spread unless the government revises its spending policy, said Stanislaw Grzonkowski, a spokesman for Solidarity’s medical department.
The teachers, staging their first nationwide action since the downfall of communism in 1989, want their salaries increased to cover last year’s 45 percent inflation plus an additional $38 a month. The average monthly salary in public schools is about $156, 15 percent below the national average.
The government has offered a $25 raise, arguing further increases would mean exceeding budget goals.
″Enough is enough,″ said Andrzej Dadziuk, a history teacher at a Warsaw high school. ″A herdsman earns more than I do, and I am in charge of young, bright people - the nation’s future.″