Polish teachers suspend strike but threaten with broader protest in September
Polish teachers agreed on Thursday to suspend a nationwide strike that had shut thousands of schools for more than two weeks but said a broader protest against government policy could be held alongside healthcare workers in September.
Teachers' demands for a pay rise follow demands from other groups for a bigger slice of the fast-growing prosperity of central Europe's largest economy, at a time when the government is boosting social spending.
"The contempt which you showed to teachers reminds me of how you treated doctors, nurses, protesting mothers (of disabled people) ... You must know that we feel united," Slawomir Broniarz, the leader of the Polish Teachers' Union (ZNP) said in comments directed at Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
"We are giving the prime minister time until September ... We are not giving up the fight for the good of Polish schools."
Morawiecki said on Thursday that the government was willing to conduct talks with the teachers.
The union did not give a specific reason why it had called off its action but the ruling PiS party announced legislation on Wednesday which would have allowed school directors to grant permission for final high school exams to go ahead even if the teachers' committees at schools remained on strike.
Broniarz's announcement opens the way for exams to take place as normal.
"Both sides were tired, there was huge tension on the part of teachers but also huge tension on the part of students," said Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist from Warsaw University.
PiS has accused teachers of using the strike as part of an opposition effort to damage its standing ahead of the European Parliamentary election next month and a national parliamentary election in October or November, something unions deny.
The government has announced more payments for pensioners, families, and farmers who raise pigs and cows.
But the opposition, which supported the teachers' strike, says there is little incentive for the government to find extra money for them because it can generate more support by channelling funds elsewhere.