Poles vent anger at govt policies in huge protest

Associated Press
Protesters demonstrate on the final day of the four day protest against the government's economic policy in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. Thousands of Polish labor union members are marching through Warsaw to show the level of their discontent with the government's labor and wage policies. The demonstrators converged on Warsaw from all over Poland on Saturday, the last of four days of major protests in the capital that also included meeting with politicians and debates with labor market experts. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Tens of thousands of Polish labor union members threw smoke grenades and blew whistles during a march through Warsaw on Saturday to vent their anger against the government's labor and wage policies.

The demonstrators converged on Warsaw from all over Poland on the last of four days of major protests that also included meetings with politicians and debates with labor market experts. The organizers — Poland's largest union, OPZZ, Solidarity and groups representing various professions — are expecting more than 100,000 participants.

They said the policies of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government hurt the interests of workers and of their families. Tusk is in his sixth year office, Poland's longest-serving premier since the fall of communism in 1989.

The demonstrators marched to the historic Castle Square with banners saying "Tusk's government Must Go," and with individual plaques reading: "I am Tusk's Slave."

The government is rapidly losing popularity after recently raising the retirement age, announcing a reform of the pension system and relaxing some labor code provisions.

The marchers complained of large-scale layoffs after economic growth slowed down to 1.9 percent of gross domestic product last year from 4.5 percent in 2011.

They demanded job security, health care guarantees and retirement benefits at a time when unemployment is at 13 percent. They also want the reversal of a recent raise in the retirement age to 67 years from the previous 60 years for women and 65 years for men.

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