Polish teachers and government hold talks as exams loom - InfoNews

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Polish teachers and government hold talks as exams loom

Banners, declaring the participation at the indefinite nationwide teachers' pay strike, displayed on the fence at the Primary School number 68 in Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, April 8, 2019. Majority of Poland's school and kindergarten teachers went on strike after talks about their payment with the government failed. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
April 09, 2019 - 7:41 AM

WARSAW, Poland - The Polish government and teachers unions sat down for a new round of talks Tuesday as a nationwide strike that has closed thousands of schools entered its second day and threatened upcoming graduation exams.

Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and the head of the main teachers' union, ZNP, were leading the talks, just hours before regular middle school graduation exams were scheduled to begin.

Protesting teachers told The Associated Press that they hoped the talks will allow the exams to go ahead.

While conceding their action as dramatic, they said many teachers have to juggle two or three jobs at different schools to make ends meet. None of the teachers the AP spoke to wanted to reveal their names.

ZNP leader, Slawomir Broniarz, has said the union wants to "put out this fire" and has called for a mediator to help end the standoff with the government, which responded with an invitation to direct talks later Tuesday. The government insisted that an offer it had previously made but which was rejected by the ZNP, would best be signed.

Meanwhile, school directors were asking for help from retired teachers, religion teachers and those not on strike to press ahead with the middle school exams on Wednesday.

The indefinite strike started Monday after pay negotiations with the government failed. A teacher's monthly net earnings range from 1,800 zlotys to 3,000 zlotys ($470 to $780).

Teachers want an immediate 30% pay increase and to back their demand, they argued that the government recently found substantial new funds for families, pensioners and businesses, in an attempt to win support ahead of May's elections to the European Parliament.

The government has offered teachers that it will accelerate a planned increase of some 15% and introduce a new remuneration system, which would substantially raise salaries but also increase the number of lessons a teacher gives a week to 24 from the current 18.

Michal Dworczyk, a minister in the prime minister's office, said there was no point making higher pay offers, because the entire salary system needs changing.

Broniarz said that over 74% of more than 20,000 schools nationwide were closed Monday. According to the Education Ministry it was just over 48% of schools and education centres.

If it continues, the strike could prevent students from taking their three-day middle school graduation exams starting Wednesday and elementary school exams next week.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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