The corridors of the Stefan Starzynski School in Warsaw are empty: no students, but the teachers have come. Almost all the teachers participate in the strike today. They are sitting in the staff room and discussing.
It’s about their future, especially financially. „We want to work in dignity,“ says German teacher Katarzyna Lempicka. She’s been at school for 14 years, practically since she started teaching. And now she is on strike and joined the demands of the union ZNP.
At its core, it’s about more wages. A salary increase of 30 percent in two installments, according to the latest status. This is „urgently needed“, says Lempicka. Of her teachers salaries of an average of 700 euros gross can not survive. That is even less than the national average income.
Respect must be expressed in reward
The bulk of their own salary is already on the rent. That’s why she, like many others, has to work on the side. Her colleague, English teacher Konrad Janiuk, has also been a teacher for a long time. He gives private lessons in the evening. „I’d rather spend my time with my family,“ he says. He demands dignity and respect for the teaching profession and this must also be reflected in the wage.
This strike does not come unannounced to the country. The demands have been on the table for months. In recent weeks, there have been regular rounds of negotiations with representatives of the right-wing conservative PiS government.
Their offer last: 15 percent gradually more wages and a so-called social contract with a shortening of the legal clerkship, more grants for homeroom teachers and less bureaucracy.
Parts of this offer went to the more government-friendly Solidarnosc union last night and signed. The larger ZNP union, however, not, so began the strike today.
According to Polish union data, 80 percent of Polish schools were affected, with the government saying it was 50 percent.
Politics teacher strike
The whole issue is also superimposed on mutual political accusations: government-friendly voices suggest that the teachers put the whole thing on the backs of the students, because right now the times of important intermediate examinations, which are now in jeopardy, begin. Some PiS politicians also suggest that teachers want to play into the hands of the opposition in the election year.
Trade unionists, on the other hand, ask why there are now billion-dollar social programs and help for farmers in the government, but not for the teachers. Surveys for or against the pedagogue strike form approximately two camps of the same size. Of the PiS supporters, nearly 80 percent are against the strike. The teacher strike is a political issue in Poland.
The teachers at the Stefan Starzynski School are very specific about their future as teachers. They want to continue on to a positive outcome for them, but hope that a solution will be found soon. Until then, the classrooms of the schools, whose teachers participate in the strike, remain empty.