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Polish Nurses Rally for More Pay

December 18, 2000

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Police in riot gear scuffled with hundreds of Polish nurses who blocked a main street in downtown Warsaw on Monday to demand higher pay.

More than 1,000 nurses halted traffic for three hours along the capital’s main east-west thoroughfare before police with clubs, helmets and bulletproof vests moved in and began dragging them away.

Two nurses and one member of parliament, Piotr Ikonowicz, were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

``We were forced into this situation by our subsistence wages,″ said one protester, 43-year-old Agnieszka Wyszczelska. ``I make $115 a month, and I have to borrow money from neighbors and from family.″

Many of the protesters moved on to disrupt traffic on other streets, picket the presidential palace or join colleagues who have staged a sit-in at the health ministry for a week.

About 60 nurses blockaded the Cieszyn border crossing to the Czech Republic on Monday but gave up after police threatened to disperse them. In other Polish cities, nurses blocked entrances to state offices and held up traffic on roads.

On Saturday, about 400 nurses blocked a major railway line and several border crossings for part of the day.

Poland’s 250,000 nurses and midwives are among Poland’s lowest-paid workers. They make an average of $114 to $205 a month, well below the national average of $454.

Deputy Prime Minister Longin Komolowski opened talks Monday with the All-Poland Union of Nurses and Midwives, but they were suspended when Komolowski said there was no money for pay raises this year.

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