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article imagePolish ministers to give up bonuses amid public outcry

By AFP     Apr 5, 2018 in Politics

Ministers in Poland's right-wing government are to donate their generous bonuses to charity while lawmakers face a pay cut, the ruling PiS party said Thursday amid plunging poll numbers.

Media revelations that the ministers of the Law and Justice (PiS) party each received between 15,000 and 19,000 euros ($18,300-$23,200) on top of their pay last year sparked outrage in a country where the average monthly salary is around 1,000 euros.

A poll conducted last month by the Kantar MB Institute for private broadcaster TVN found that backing for the PiS tumbled from some 40 percent to 28 percent for the first time since it took office in late 2015.

Ministers and secretaries of state who are still in office following a January reshuffle "have decided to hand over their bonuses to the Caritas charity for social services by mid-May," PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told reporters in Warsaw after a meeting of the party's political committee.

Kaczynski is widely regarded as Poland's de facto decision-maker, despite being a member of parliament without a formal government post.

"We've seen that the public demands humility and therefore humility will become reality," Kaczynski told reporters, adding that "draft legislation to cut salaries for members of parliament and senators by 20 percent will be submitted to parliament."

"Vox populi, vox dei," he said, quoting a Latin phrase meaning "Voice of the people, voice of God".

Kaczynski also said the party would seek to cap the salaries of mayors and other regional and local officials, who are often paid more generously than cabinet members.

Generous bonuses will also be cut for the heads of state-owned companies and those run by municipalities, Kaczynski said.

Beata Szydlo, the former PiS prime minister who approved the generous 2017 bonuses for ministers in her government, was lambasted by the media and opposition for a fiery speech she made in parliament in March defending the pay packets as entirely legitimate rewards for "hard work".

Critics recalled that while serving in the opposition before taking office in 2015, Kaczynski and his party were quick to blast the previous liberal government for much lower bonuses.

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