Four Days of Protest in Warsaw
September 30, 2013
Tens of thousands protesters descended on Warsaw Sept. 11-14 to stage the largest trade union demonstrations in years. The protests, organized by Poland’s three largest trade unions, Solidarity, the OPZZ Trade Union Alliance, and the Trade Union Forum, was targeted against the economic and social policies of the economically liberal government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. According to the police, some 100,000 demonstrators took part in the culminating protest in the city center Sept. 14.
The unions demanded that the government withdraw from some of its plans for changes to labor regulations and adopt a law to make the minimum wage grow at a steady rate. The unions also want the government to raise income thresholds entitling poor residents to family and social benefits.
Another demand was to scrap a recent decision to raise the retirement age, which was increased to 67 years for all employees. The three trade unions also demand greater spending to help the unemployed and are calling for reduced use of short-term—or “junk”—contracts of employment that do not entitle the employee to either pension or health insurance. Further demands include access to free education and a package of changes to improve the functioning of the healthcare sector.
The demonstrations were peaceful, with an ironic statue erected in front of the houses of parliament portraying Prime Minister Tusk in a pose alluding to that of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, and holding a soccer ball and wearing a Peruvian cap. Tusk is known for his passion for soccer and some time ago he was accused of unjustified spending of state funds after making an official visit to Peru together with his family.