A historic strike of teachers and other school and nursery workers has been unnecessarily ended by the leaders of the Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP), the biggest union involved.
It was the largest indefinite strike in the 30 years since unions were legalised in Poland—over 600,000 people took part.
The strike began on 8 April and lasted 19 days—three school weeks. It had its ups and downs with many expecting that it would not last so long.
In fact, in its last week the strike showed a new momentum. Street demonstrations in towns and cities all over the country were bigger and more numerous than before.
The government was in a panic and passed a special law allowing school directors to replace teachers in processing pupils for their matriculation exams.
Instead of seeing this as a sign of government weakness the union leaders backed down, fearing further confrontation.
ZNP leader Slawomir Broniarz suggested teachers would strike again if their demands were not met. But you cannot turn workers’ combativity on and off like a tap and many are angry. Warsaw teacher Patrycja said, “We felt as though we had been struck in the face”
But teachers and other school workers have not said their last word. Many local leaders had emerged in schools and nurseries. Contacts were made between schools and inter-school strike committees were formed in many cities.
ZNP member Agnieszka Kaleta said, “We do not know yet whether striking has entered our blood. Let’s hope so!”