22,000 demonstrated in Warsaw for better teachers’ wages

left: Minister of Education Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, center: Slawomir Broniarz (ZNP)

ZNP, the Polish Teacher Union and an ETUCE member organisation, demonstrated in Warsaw on 18 April 2015. According to latest information from ZNP, more than 22,000 teachers and educational staff from all regions of Poland took part in the event. The initiative to organise this protest came after the Minister of National Education Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska did not appear in the planned meeting with ZNP regarding the increase of teachers' wages.

ZNP addressed a petition to Minister Kluzik-Rostkowska. It demands an increase in teachers' wages and funding directed towards education in general. According to ZNP, the current average pay of Polish teachers is hardly 900 €. In addition, the percentage of education funds in relation to the GDP is only 2.52 %. This is why the union demands 10 % increase in wages and financial recognition for the work of teachers from January 2016 onwards. It also demands respect for the teaching profession in generally speaking. The petition aims to stop shutting down schools and kindergartens. According to ZNP, almost two thousand schools have been shut down since 2007. Some of the shutdowns have been made illegally by local governments. Finally, the petition demands real dialogue on the issues of wages and the privatisation of education. ZNP wants to dismantle the Teacher's Charter which regulates the rights and duties of teachers. It also regulates teachers' qualifications and promotions, working conditions, remuneration and training.

The demonstrators used a slogan "Joanna is making monkeys out of us" and carried balloons in order to show that the Minister spreads misinformation about teachers' work and tries to confront teachers with parents. Kluzik-Rostkowska met the protesters in front of the Ministry of National Education building and received the demands of concern for the education sector  from the ZNP President Sławomir Broniarz. The demonstration gathered also by other members of the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) who brought forward their specific sectoral demands. The confederation together handed over a petition to the Minister of Labour and Social Policy Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz who met the delegation of demonstrators on behalf of the Prime Minister. This petition consisted of joint concerns on topics such as on the improved social dialogue.

Martin Rømer, ETUCE European Director, addressed a letter in solidarity with ZNP and its protesting members to Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and the Minister of National Education of the Republic of Poland. Rømer urges the politicians " to shoulder responsibility as a social partner and to involve ZNP in elaborating better solutions in the education sector with the long-term objective to guarantee best quality education for everybody. Strengthening the sector rather than turning a deaf ear and ignoring alternative proposals are preconditions with regard to secure quality in education in Poland also to its educational and economic future." Rømer hopes that the education social partners in Poland will meet around the negotiation table as soon as possible and engage in a constructive social dialogue about all pending issues.