Polish Nurses Occupy Ministry, Launch National Strike
More than 600 nurses stepped up their occupation of the Polish health ministry building Wednesday morning and launched a nationwide strike for higher pay, a union spokeswoman said.
"We won't let anyone enter the ministry, not even the minister himself as he has been powerless to satisfy our demands," said Longina Kaczmarska, president of the nurses union for the Warsaw region.
The "last chance" negotiations held between nurses and the ministry Tuesday night broke down, and the union has followed through on its threat to launch a nationwide strike from 0700 GMT Wednesday, she said.
The strike will bring daily limited work stoppages to most medical establishments throughout Poland, with the strike called for an unlimited duration.
Poland's 250,000 nurses earn about 600-700 zlotys (156-182 euros, 178-208 dollars) per month, a subsistence level salary given prices in the country.
"We want our salaries increased by 500 zlotys before the end of this year, but the government is proposing 70 zlotys per person beginning next year. It's unacceptable," said Bozena Banachowicz, the president of the nurses' national union.
The strike had hit about 50 hospitals in the Warsaw region Wednesday morning.
About 400 nurses stopped working in the large Wejherowo hospital near the northern port city of Gdansk, as had their colleagues in four hospitals in the soutwestern Lower Siliesia region, union officials said.
Doctors and interns have replaced nurses at many facilities.
Nurses are continuing to staff emergency wards, union officials said.
The strike follows a similar action in July 1999 when the government eventually promised to increase nurses' pay by two percent, plus inflation, by April 2000.
But the nurses say the government has not honored the commitment -- WARSAW (AFP_
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