Teachers across Poland hold a strike after the government and unions failed to agree on proposed wage increases, the leader of the biggest teachers' union ZNP says. Many schools are closed to students.

Teachers join state employees as they march through the downtown demanding higher wages and protesting against the governments educational reforms in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018.
Teachers join state employees as they march through the downtown demanding higher wages and protesting against the governments educational reforms in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP)

Teachers in Poland have gone on a nationwide strike to demand higher pay after days of talks with the government failed to meet demands by the majority of teachers unions.

The open-ended strike by school and kindergarten teachers that started Monday is the first such widespread action by Poland's chronically underpaid educators since 1993.

The leader of the biggest teachers' union ZNP said teachers across the country held a strike on Monday after the government and unions failed to agree on proposed wage increases.

It comes at a sensitive time, just days before crucial end-of-school exams in primary and middle schools, and weeks ahead of elections to the European Parliament that are key for the government.

Demand of salary increase

Talks between three teachers trade unions and the government ended on Sunday evening with the ZNP and another union sticking by their demand of monthly salary increase of $262 (1,000 zlotys). Only one smaller union agreed to the government's offer of a 15 percent monthly increase starting from September.

The go-ahead for the protest was given after last-ditch talks with the government failed Sunday night.

Only the small Solidarity union accepted the government proposals and is not on strike.

Many schools are closed to students.

"Biggest strike in education"

Public sector workers in Poland stepped up calls for pay increases after the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) promised in February a hefty increase social spending as part of its election campaign.

"Today, at 0800, starts the biggest strike in education since 1993," ZNP leader Slawomir Broniarz told private broadcaster TVN24.

Many teachers are also unhappy with what they say has been a chaotic education reform.

"We are ready to convince the government that this strike is not only economically motivated, but that this strike is also to defend the quality of education, which has been damaged in recent years," Broniarz said.

According to the ZNP, almost 80 percent of Polish schools and kindergartens have declared they would take part in the strike, but the union has not said how long it would last.

In March, thousands of workers at Polish courts and prosecutors' offices took to the streets of Warsaw to demand better pay and working conditions.

"We made an appeal to teachers yesterday, and let me appeal to them again. Of course, if you believe that the strike is necessary, then okay. But please, do come back to your students during the forthcoming days when there are exams," Michal Dworczyk, the head of prime minister's office told public radio station PR1.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies