WARSAW, Poland – Threatening a general strike, throwing smoke grenades and blowing whistles, approximately 100,000 Polish union members marched through Warsaw on Saturday to vent their anger against the government’s labor and wage policies.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government is rapidly losing support after recently raising the retirement age, announcing a reform of the pension system and relaxing some labor code provisions that allow for longer daily and weekly working hours.
City authorities blocked traffic in central Warsaw to allow the demonstrators to march to the historic Castle Square with flags and balloons in national white-and-red colors, and banners saying “We are Coming to Get You,” “Tusk’s government Must Go,” and individual plaques reading “I am Tusk’s Slave.”
They converged on Warsaw from all over Poland on the last of four days of major, peaceful protests in the city that also included meetings with politicians and debates with labor market experts.
Some of them have camped in front of parliament since their first march Wednesday.
The organizers – Poland’s largest union, Solidarity and groups representing various professions – said about 120,000 participated in the march Saturday. City authorities said there were some 100,000.
The unionists said that the policies of Tusk’s pro-market government hurt the interests of workers and of their families. Tusk, in his second term and sixth year in office, is Poland’s longest-serving premier since the fall of communism in 1989.