Trade unions start series of antigovernment protests in Warsaw
September 12, 2013
Some 20,000 people took part in the antigovernment rallies on Wednesday in Warsaw organized jointly by Poland's three largest trade unions - Solidarity, the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) and the Trade Unions Forum in a protest against government labor policy, pension system reform and to call for higher pay.
They picketed eight ministries (the Treasury, Labor, Transport, Economy, Health, Interior Affairs, Agriculture and Justice) where they left lists of their demands, and subsequently marched to the parliament building, in front of which they pitched tents.
The Wednesday march opened a series of demonstrations to continue until Saturday when some 100,000 protesters are expected to join.
The unionists demand from the government the withdrawal from the Sejm, lower house, a government- and deputy-worked out draft on a flexible working time, which they say “is scandalous and will not help increase employment”.
Unions oppose what they call “junk” employment contracts,short-time contracts without social security, and want a higher minimum wage.
They also want more support for certain types of industry and changes to the healthcare system. They also want the reversal of a raise in the retirement age to 67 years from the previous 60 for women and 65 for men.
"We gathered here to protest against this inhuman government," OPZZ leader Jan Guz said before the Paliament building to loud cheering. "There will be no more support. We came to demand our rights as workers."
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that the appropriate place for debate remained the Trilateral Commissionhe [ of the government, labor unions and business organizations].
He added that the protests were “political,” and aimed at “bringing down the government.”
The six-year-old ruling coalition was overtaken recently in opinion polls by the country's conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) after making a series of unpopular policy moves and its parliament majority has shrunk to two votes after two MPs left the ruling Civic Platform (PO).
Most Poles back the protests, according to a poll by MillwardBrown commissioned by a private broadcaster TVN. It said 59% of respondents were in favor of antigovernment rallies and 31% against.