Unionists launch four-day Warsaw demonstration

A four-day series of protests against the government got under way on Wednesday, led by an alliance of three of Poland’s largest trade union associations.

Protesters gather outside the Labour Ministry for one of Wednesday's demonstrations. Photo: PAP/Jakub Kaminski

Protesters gather outside the Labour Ministry for one of Wednesday’s demonstrations. Photo: PAP/Jakub Kaminski

Demonstrations were held outside several ministries, and a “tent city” was erected outside parliament.

“People are frustrated and the bitterness runs very deep,” said Jan Guz, head of All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), in an interview with TOK FM radio station today.

“We, the people, are crying out today: ‚Government, come to your senses.”

The OPZZ, together with the Solidarity trade union and the Forum of Trade Unions, confirmed in June that the protests would take place, after talks with the government broke down within the framework of the so-called Trilateral Commission.

The original reason for the protests was prospective reforms to the labor code that allow for so-called ‚junk contracts’ (temporary contracts suited to casual labor in which employment rights are limited.)

However, besides calls for the government to renege on its policy, the unions are also protesting against the already valid increase of the national retirement age to 67 for both sexes.

Likewise, unionists are demanding the adoption of a law that will create a faster rate of increase for the minimum wage, and they also want obligatory nationwide referendums on policies once 500,000 signatures have been collected.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that the appropriate place for debate remained the Trilateral Commission.

He added that the protests were “political,” and aimed at “bringing down the government.”

Several opposition groups joined the trade unions, including the club of right-wing tabloid Gazeta Polska, and the similarly oriented Family of Radio Maryja.

The culmination of the protests will be on Saturday, with as many as 100,000 expected to take part in protests in the capital.

(nh)

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