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article imageTalks fail between Polish government, striking teachers

By AFP     Apr 9, 2019 in World

Poland's conservative government and teacher unions on Tuesday announced the breakdown of talks meant to bring an end to a national strike for higher wages, putting a question mark over upcoming school exams.

As many as 80 percent of schools in some Polish regions launched the indefinite strike on Monday, according to unions, in a move that challenges the Law and Justice (PiS) party government in an election year.

"There's no reason to expect to end or limit the strike," said Slawomir Wittkowicz, an official from the Trade Unions Forum.

"Today's meeting was a waste of time," he added after brief talks with Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

Wittkowicz and Slawomir Broniarz, president of the ZNP Polish Teachers Union, accused the government of offering no new proposals beyond the agreement it signed Sunday with the Solidarity union, which is close to the ruling conservatives.

The other unions and striking teachers found Sunday's agreement insufficient.

An experienced teacher in Poland gets a gross base salary of nearly 3,500 zloty (814 euros, $921), which is around 70 percent of the average monthly salary, according to the ZNP.

Solidarity had agreed to the government's proposal of a 15 percent salary hike. The other unions are calling for around double that.

Szydlo for her part stressed that it was necessary to meet the timetable for exams, which begin Wednesday morning for secondary school students and next Monday for those in primary school.

Public officials continued Tuesday to look for substitutes who could supervise the exams.

The strike comes as the government has rolled out a raft of generous social spending measures ahead of European elections in May and a general election this fall to shore up popularity dented by a string of scandals.

Focusing its campaign on bread-and-butter issues, the PiS has passed a pension hike and vowed to expand a child allowance it launched after taking office in late 2015.

It has also promised no income tax for employees under 26 years of age, lower income tax for pensioners and special allowances for the owners of cows and pigs.

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