Warsaw: nurses occupy Sejm, tenants disrupt city council

Politicians are the target of protests as tensions rise in labour and other social movements.

A group of nurses have occupied the gallery of the Polish Parliament (the Sejm) to protest the casualization of their profession.

Yesterday the Sejm amended legislation aimed at speeding up the privatization of health care. The new legislation would force local governments that do not commercialize hospitals to cover their expenses or liquidate them. Local governments who cooperate with the governments’ commercialization plans will have the prior “debts” of the hospitals frozen. It should be noted that many “debts” were the result of deliberate underfunding in recent years.

One change in the law would make it easier for hospitals to hire nurses on temporary contracts. Nurses unions oppose these changes which will lead to greater job instability for nurses and which will shift certain economic burdens on their shoulders.

Another change would increase the working hours for certain groups of health care professionals such as radiologists and physical therapists.

The furious nurses broke out in protest and decided to stay all night in the Sejm. Today the protests continue.

The hyper-liberal Minister of Health claimed that having barriers to the contract system would be “unconstitutional” because it would infringe the “freedom of choice” to work on a contract. Of course in other health care professions where there is this “freedom of choice”, it usually means the “freedom” of the hospital to outsource work, liquidating permanent jobs and the “freedom” of the staff to either accept the worse working conditions at the outsourcing firm or the “freedom” to lose their job. In the past several months, we have seen several desperate protests of hospital ward workers whose jobs had been outsourced.

Around Poland, nurses already are grossly underpaid. Many hospitals do not live up to collective agreements or give pay rises that were promised. Currently nurses are striking in Stargard and there is a hunger strike of nurses in Przemysl. There are dozens of other labour conflicts going on in hospitals around the country.

Besides the protest of angry nurses, tenants activists disrupted the City Council yesterday, telling the politicians that they should go home. ZSP and the Tenants Defense Committee recently announced that they would boycott meetings with city authorities who don’t intend to change anything and reiterated that they do not recognize the legitimacy of the local government. They are calling for popular control of public housing and informing that it would help people who cannot get housing to set up home in vacant units.

Tensions were particularly high after the murder of a housing activist from the Warsaw Tenants Association, which also took part in yesterday’s protest. The tenants groups blame the politicians for pushing through more and more inhuman turbo-capitalist acts and channeling the budget and their energies into projects beneficial for a small elite.

Besides these two actions in Warsaw, there has been an increase in labor protests this month, with large protests of postal workers and miners and serious threats of strikes on the railways, some educational institutions and in the Fiat plant in Tychy.

***

Video of the action in the Council: http://www.zsp.net.pl/bezradna_rada
Mainstream TV Report:
http://www.tvp.pl/warszawa/informacyjne/kurier-warszawski/wideo/17032011/4158994

One thing that was nice was that the nurses were using some of our slogans against precarious work. smile But they are really in a bad position and for some reason did not organize more mass protests beforehand. I think they would have got good support.

As for the city and tenants, recently they have been trying to calm down things by solving a few more individual cases, while leaving the causes of the problems in tact. After the murder was announced last week, a few people in the movement who had problems were finally helped. But as we say, we are interested in a change for everyone, not just solving a few cases and pretending there is no problem.

http://libcom.org/news/warsaw-nurses-occupy-sejm-tenants-disrupt-city-council-18032011

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