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POLAND: Teachers begin countrywide protest

Negotiations between teachers’ unions and the government failed this weekend. As of this morning, a general teachers’ strike is in effect across Poland. Over 80% of schools cancelled classes but the exact number of protesting teachers is still unknown. It is largely local governments, headmasters, and parents themselves who are responsible for organising care for the students during the protest. This is the largest such event in Poland for the past 25 years and there is not certainty how long it will last. Examinations for secondary school students begin this week, and while the government is attempting to organize social committees to oversee the exams, the move is not likely to be effective on a country-wide scale.

During yesterday’s negotiations, the PiS government proposed that wage increases for teachers will be introduced incrementally – until 2023. The unions disagreed, maintaining their postulate of a 30% increase this year, introduced in two increments. This week will be a key test for the PiS government – a protest of this universal scale has not yet happened during the party’s term in office. Both the ruling party and the teachers’ unions will act depending on how the public opinion forms in the coming days, i.e. whether the public will blame the teachers or the government for the closed schools.