21st Jun 2021

Polish workers hurl protests at French embassy

Between 500 and 800 Polish workers marked Bastille Day (14 July) by throwing missiles at the French embassy in Warsaw and shouting protests about the behaviour of French investors in Poland.

The demonstration was largely peaceful, with the workers stopping to observe the two minutes' silence for the London dead at 13:00 CET, but later burning an image of the Paris Bastille building outside the French mission, PAP and Rzeczpospolita report.

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  • Poland has been trying to make light of labour disputes with France in recent weeks (Photo: Polish tourist office)

Meanwhile, French diplomats enjoyed a picnic in the embassy gardens to mark the country's national holiday.

The trade union members came from all over the country representing staff at French co-owned firms such as Orbis, Wyborowa and Telekomunikacja Polska (which aims to lay off almost 3,000 staff this year) as well as the Rybnik electricity plant.

The workers handed a petition to French officials saying that French investors have gone back on promises to inject capital, train staff and bring in new technology.

"We firmly protest against 'French style' privatisation, the effects of which are a deterioration in working conditions and continuously growing unemployment", the text stated, urging shareholders such as France Telecom to "halt restructuring based on redundancies and lower wages".

Trade union leaders told PAP that the protest was not anti-French per se but aimed at starting a dialogue like the one between French workers and their own employers back in France.

No joke

Polish tourist offices in recent weeks have been trying to make light of French fears that Polish workers will come and steal their jobs - publishing pictures of sexy plumbers and nurses with slogans such as "I am waiting for you in Poland".

Rzeczpospolita quotes French economists Vincent Aussiloux and Michael Pajot, who said French exporters have created 150,000 extra jobs in France on the back of higher sales to central Europe after enlargement, while enlargement has cost just 5,000 jobs in France so far.

They added that French supermarket owners in new member states tend to employ French managers and stuff shelves with French products.

French firms are the largest foreign investors in Poland, which suffers an unemployment rate double that of France at around 20 percent.

The French ambassador to Poland, Pierre Menat, did not comment on the demonstrations.

But he spoke on Polish radio the same day, saying "The complete lifting of restrictions for Poles wanting to work in France is unlikely before 2009".


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