25,000 Workers in Poland Protest Against Wage Tax
In the largest protest rally in post-Communist Poland, about 25,000 union members marched to government headquarters Friday to demand an end to anti-inflationary wage controls.
The workers, who carried signs with messages such as “Tax in the factories, hunger at home,” booed the nation’s finance minister when he waded into the crowd outside the Council of Ministers building to speak to them.
The so-called wage tax penalizes state firms that increase wages above levels set by the government. It was imposed by Poland’s new government after Communist rule ended in 1989.
Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz’s attempt to explain the government’s side of the wage control issue was met with boos.
Demonstrators were organized by the All Poland Trade Union Alliance, a union formerly allied with the Communist regime. The union, known by its Polish initials OPZZ, has a history of conflicts with the Solidarity trade union over economic policy.
Solidarity pushed for reforms under the leadership of Lech Walesa, who has been a target of critics since he was elected president of Poland in December.