Close to three weeks on strike and camped opposite the main government offices, the nurses refuse to give up.
The strike, for more pay (well, you couldn’t get much less than they get) has been supported by the general public. Thousands of trade unionists joined the protest Friday to show solidarity.
Nurses on hunger strike called off that particular type of protest this weekend, after a not too sympathetic response from the Polish government.
The government – or at least the health minister, Zbigniew Religa, has offered pay rises of up to 30 percent next year, but PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski has repeated, many times, that there is no money in the budget for substantial pay rises in 2007.
Conditions in what they are calling the ‘White City’ on Ujazdowski Av. opposite the prime minister’s office have deteriated over the weeks since the protest began. (They also call the place ‘Hotel Hilton’). Rain has bucketed down on the nurses from the beginning, turning, when we were their on Saturday, much of the ground around the tents to mud.
There are some portable toilets on the site and I saw nurses lining up for soup and bread rolls.
But sanitation is not good. We signed a book giving assistance to nurses who wanted a bath – our flat is only about half a kilometer down the road.
Strange, then, when the telephone went about 8 O’clock at night: it was a journalist from Gazeta Wyborcza wanting to know, ‘when we would be coming down to the ‘white city’? Apparently, someone at the union tent had shown journalists our names, telephone number etc.
I was slightly annoyed at that: we did not give our phone number so journalists from Gazeta Wyborcza could come and have a bath.
But if you are a nurse and you need a shower, then you are always welcome at Beatroot Mansions.
Next round of negotiations between unions and government is scheduled for this Tuesday. So nurses have at least two more nights to camp out under the stars.
Photos by traczka/beatroot productions