Polish healthcare workers protest over pay and conditions

The protesters, many in white uniforms, carried banners with slogans like "We live short lives because we work hard", "The pandemic of nurse and midwife shortages has lasted for years" and "We demand decent earnings." Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Poland's medics marched through the streets of Warsaw on Saturday, demanding higher wages and better working conditions as the country faces a fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The demonstration, which brought together hundreds of health workers from around the country, started around noon in Krasińskich Square to proceed through the centre of the Polish capital.

The protesters, many in white uniforms, carried banners with slogans like "We live short lives because we work hard", "The pandemic of nurse and midwife shortages has lasted for years" and "We demand decent earnings."

One of the protesters, Jacek Gawłowski from the National Union of Nurses and Midwives' branch in Kielce, south-eastern Poland, told PAP that recent wage regulations "caused inequalities".

"People with many years of experience earn much less than people entering the profession," Gawłowski said.

He added that "spending on health care has been too low for many years... not only as regards wages for medics but also in terms of access to new treatment methods."

The list of demands published by the National Protest and Strike Committee of Healthcare Workers on Friday include an immediate amendment to the minimum wage act, a real increase in the valuation of benefits, hiring more administrative and support staff and creating a system to protect medical staff against physical and verbal aggression.

After meeting the representatives of the National Protest and Strike Committee on Friday, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki would hold direct talks with the protesting medical workers.