WARSAW, April 8 (Xinhua) -- Teachers across Poland held a national strike on Monday after days of negotiations with the government failed to meet their demands.
According to the unions, teachers at about 80 percent of the country's schools participated in the strike.
If the walkout continues beyond Monday, it could disrupt end of school exams for two age groups of students.
In an attempt to ensure that the exams take place on schedule independently of the strike, the Ministry of Education issued a call for volunteers to help with exam supervision.
Teachers have been asking for pay rises of about 30 percent of their current salaries as of this year. A Polish teacher at the beginning of their career can earn as little as 470 U.S. dollars net per month, while teachers with extra qualifications can make up to 650 U.S. dollars per month.
The Polish government said it could only offer up to half of the monthly raise demanded by the teachers this year. The government additionally proposed a scheme of gradual pay rises to be implemented between 2020 and 2023.
Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told Polish media last Friday that the promise of a long-term salary increase constituted "a new social contract for teachers."
"Today's proposal only amplifies the conflict, it doesn't reduce it," Slawomir Broniarz, head of the Polish Teachers' Union, said in response to the long-term proposal. Broniarz criticized the long-term promises saying the evolution of the minimum wage until 2023 could not be predicted.
"If a strike is to begin in Poland in 40 hours, and the government pours gas on the fire, it means this is the responsibility of the government, and personally of Deputy Prime Minister Szydlo," Slawomir Wittkowicz from the Trade Unions' Forum said last Friday upon hearing the government's proposals.
A third union involved in the negotiations, Solidarity, was more sympathetic to the government.
"The good of the children and not getting them involved in the conflict during what is the already a difficult period of exams has been and continues to be the most important," Wojciech Grzeszek, a Solidarity representative, said on Friday, according to the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
Following last Sunday's inconclusive round of negotiations, Solidarity signed a deal with the government and gave up the protest action. This has had a limited impact on the national strike, however, as most protesting teachers are members of the two unions that did not agree to the government's proposals.