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Warsaw residents gathered in the city’s Old Town to show support for the striking teachers’ whose nationwide pay protest has been going for five days without any signs the government could grant their demands, in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, April 12, 2019. Similar rallies were held in some other cities.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
A nationwide strike of Poland's teachers entered its second week Monday with the government saying it has no more funds to meet their pay demands after offering generous benefits to various other groups.
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The teachers are demanding a 30% raise this year, saying they mostly earn less than a supermarket cashier. But the right-wing government, which is paying generous benefits to its traditional groups of backers — large families and pensioners — says it has only enough money for half that amount and refuses to discuss anything more, in a clear sign its policy has reached its limits.
"There is no money in the 2019 state budget for the increases to be higher," said Education Minister Anna Zalewska.
The declaration is a sign that, after an easy 2018 budget when Poland's deficit was only 0.5% of GDP, the promises of new money in the runup to the elections to the European Parliament in May and of the general elections in the fall, have prevailed over fiscal discipline.
The bonuses promised this year by ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski amounts to some 20 billion zlotys ($5 billion.)
The head of the main teachers union, ZNP, Slawomir Broniarz, said the strikers were not accepting Zalewska's words.
"We want to earn proper money and live in dignity," he said, making another call for immediate negotiations.
The majority of Poland's hundreds of thousands of teachers continue to strike, idling schools and kindergartens, and making parents of small children bring them along to work or leave with grandparents.
The strike, however, did not prevent primary school graduation exams from being held Monday in almost 13,000 schools for some 377,000 students.