Opposition aims to block president's pay rise for politicians

The Civic Coalition (KO), Poland's main opposition grouping, will make an attempt to block the president-signed 60 percent pay rise for parliamentarians, the KO spokesman has said.

Jan Grabiec said after a meeting of senior KO officials on Monday afternoon that the bloc will put forward a bill that would waive the president's decision.

Grabiec said that the KO caucus will file a bill "on waiving the pay hikes offered through a decision of President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki."

According to Grabiec, the bill will also block any further attempts to raise politicians' wages in the current term of parliament, i.e. until 2023.

"I would like to thank the authorities of the Civic Coalition caucus for their unanimous decision on the bill to block pay rises for politicians," Donald Tusk, the leader of KO's backbone party Civic Platform (PO), wrote on Twitter.

KO's move may bring the issue of politicians' wages back into the limelight of parliamentary debate, a scenario that Duda and Morawiecki likely wanted to avoid.

On Friday, the Polish president signed a regulation that will hike the wages of undersecretaries of state and, indirectly, of MPs and senators by 60 percent. The regulation was swiftly signed by the prime minister as well and published in the official journal of laws on the same day.

"There is nothing extraordinary here, it is treating parliamentarians just like any other professional group," the prime minister said at a press conference in Wroclaw, south-western Poland, on Saturday.

Morawiecki said that "parliamentarians and local government officials in the past several years, and parliamentarians in fact in the past 23-24 years, have not received any pay rises.

"In fact, parliamentarians were the only group in Poland that suffered a wage cut three years ago," Morawiecki added.

However, critics say millions of Poles have seen their wages reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the government has also decided to freeze public employees' wages due to the economic crisis caused by coronavirus.

Politicians' salaries have been a burning issue in Poland. In early 2018, it was revealed that the then prime minister, Beata Szydło, had offered huge benefits to her ministers at the end of 2017.

The news backfired on the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), and prompted its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, to cut parliamentarians' wages by 20 percent to quell public anger. A relevant law on salaries was passed in June 2018.

Critics regard the president's recent move as a back-door way of increasing salaries that bypasses parliamentary scrutiny, claiming that the standard legislative path could dent support for the ruling party.

Presidential aide Andrzej Dera said on Thursday that the president-proposed raise would amount to 60 percent for undersecretaries of state and 40 percent for managerial staff in public offices. Parliamentarians’ wages are directly linked to those of undersecretaries, so they can also expect a 60-percent pay rise.