Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 21:56:06 -0500 (CDT)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Polish Farmers/Workers Protest Privatization
/** labr.global: 314.0 **/
** Topic: Polish Farmers/Workers Protest Privatization **
** Written 10:41 AM Sep 25, 1999 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
WARSAW, Sept 24 (AFP)—Some 30,000 protesters took to the streets of Warsaw Friday to demonstrate against economic reforms, shouting “no to selling Poland to foreigners” and calling for premier Jerzy Buzek to resign.
Several thousand police and riot police were deployed for the protest, which organizers had said could attract up to 100,000 people, but it wound up mid-afternoon without incident.
The rally included farmers, miners, nurses, workers from the railroads and arms industries, and others who have suffered from reforms destined to prepare Poland for entry into the European Union.
Demonstrators marched peacefully throughout the afternoon in front of the finance ministry, parliament and the main government headquarters, shouting “Reforms equal sabotage” and “Don’t sell Poland to foreigners.”
Government buildings had been cordoned off and buses which brought protestors from across Poland were searched for weapons or bottles, while those who had been drinking were turned away from the protest site.
Poland has seen the fastest growth of any country in central and eastern Europe, but analysts say the government's popularity has slumped because of mismanagement of reforms in four sectors: health, pensions, the civil service and education.
Truck drivers protested in early August over an increase in fuel prices, while farmers, who are facing overproduction and falling revenues, have also called for cheaper fuel, higher prices for their corn, and tax hikes on imported cereals.
Two hundred nurses staged a hunger strike last week in southern Poland to protest low salaries and poor conditions.
Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, who ten years ago started Poland on the road to economic reform, bore the brunt of the protesters' anger, with many calling for his immediate dismissal.
Several unions, including two ex-Communist groups, organized Friday's protest, but Solidarity was notably absent, as its political arm is now part of the coalition government.
Police said the number of protesters fell far short of the 100,000 participants predicted by march organizers.