Teachers’ strike may threaten primary school final exams

Prompted by pay-rise demands, the Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) has announced that a teachers’ strike will start on April 8, 2019, whereas the education ministry expressed concern that the overlapping of the protest with the primary school final exams may disturb the progress of pupils’ education.

“The strike’s end date has not been specified. We will be striking until the end,” said the ZNP head Sławomir Broniarz, adding that “whether the strike will take place at a time that is important for all, namely the exam session…, depends on the government's decisions”.

Meanwhile, the education ministry’s website statement reads that “the third instalment of governmental subvention for teachers has already been transferred to local authorities and that teachers’ salaries are being increased.”

In addition, “teachers are receiving their bonus salary. Starting from September 2019, teachers will experience another pay-rise – an increase of 5 percent. In total, their remuneration will rise by 16.1 percent in comparison to 2018,” reads the education ministry’s statement.

However, the ZNP does not intend to step back and starting from March 5, strike referenda are going to take place at the schools whose teachers demanded a pay-rise of PLN 1,000 (EUR 232). According to the ZNP, a total of 78 percent of schools in Poland have called for their teachers’ remunerations to be increased. Moreover, the highest percentage of schools engaged in the pre-strike procedures may be traced in the Łódzkie (88 percent), Lubelskie and Śląskie provinces (both 87 percent each).

“Employees of a specified school will be permitted to strike if at least half of individuals authorised to vote have participated in the referendum and if the majority of them have voted for the strike,” reads the ZNP website. The ZNP expects the referenda to end by March 25.

A risk exists, however, that the primary school final exams scheduled for April 15 may converge with the strike, resulting in procedural troubles on exam day or in its postponement.

The ZNP stressed that the protest will be carried out for the sake of pupils. The ministry, for its part, stressed that pupils and their parents will be the ones most harmed by the strike.

“We believe that teachers and principals responsible for the carrying out of exams are aware that their disruption may disturb the realisation of pupils’ life plans… According to opinion polls, most Poles do not want the teachers’ strike to take place during the primary school and high school finals. Representatives of the ‘Parents for School’ [‘Rodzice Szkole’] Foundation call on teachers not to block the exams,” reads the ministry’s statement.