By Olivier Bault.
Poland – Forty days occupation of the Sejm by disabled persons and their relatives
The last 27th of May, a forty days occupation of the corridors of the Sejm (the Polish lower house) by disabled adults and their relatives that had formed a protest committee, came to an end. One and a half week later, the liberal opposition vainly tried to obtain a non-confidence vote against the both ministers of the Morawiecki government directly concerned by this protest movement: the Minister of Family and Social Policy Elżbieta Rafalska and the Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydło who presides the Social Committee of the Council of Ministers. This is a deputy of the liberal-libertarian party Nowoczesna (“Modern”) who had helped the protesters to enter into the enclosure of the Sejm for claiming from the government party an increase of the financial assistance for disabled persons. Two demands were put forward: the social pension in favour of disabled persons to be equal to the minimum pension for work incapacity (that meant to have the basic pension for disabled adults to increase from zł 865,03 to zł 1029,80 – that is the equivalent of around € 240 per month), and a monthly premium of zł 500 per month for rehab – that is the same amount as the one paid each month since 2016 to families for each minor child from the second child on.
If the government and parliament majority have rapidly accepted the first demand, they have refused the second one due to the excessive weight that it would represent for the State budget. However, the parliament majority has voted new in-kind support that have been presented as corresponding to the demanded value of around zł 500 per month, which then lead to a dialogue of the deaf between the government pretending to have implemented all the demands of the protesters, and the latter ones who pretended the contrary until today, as they still claim a new allocation in cash. On 24 April, the minister Rafalska then signed an “agreement with the disabled persons”, meaning in fact the associations of disabled persons, but excluding the protesters of the Sejm who just rejected the government’s proposals in front of the TV cameras. The end of the protest movement on 27 May and the leaving of the protesters, which presence had been very publicised were by the way officially only a suspension of the movement, the same way as it had been four years before.
At the beginning of the movement on 18 April, the spokesman of the protesters had indeed declared that they would put an end to the suspension of their occupation of the Sejm from 2014, under the government of Donald Tusk, when they had obtained the increase of the allowance paid to the parents who are obliged to stop working for taking care of a disabled child. At that time, they had been invited to the Sejm by the deputies of Solidarna Polska, a party that is today one of the components of the right wing majority lead by the PiS. Their movement then lasted two weeks and they had left as unsatisfied as today even if the PO-PSL majority at that time had also accepted to fulfill some of their demands and had voted the increase of the allowance paid to the parents of minor disabled children obliged to stop working from zł 820 per month (around € 190) to zł 1000 with an additional increase of zł 300 spread over two years.
This is no hazard if the parents of disabled persons claim an additional rehab allowance equal to the amount of the new family allowances implemented by the PiS and if the protest movement at the Sejm began four days after the PiS came together to a convention and announced, with great fanfare, new measures for the Poles: decrease of the corporate income tax from 15 to 9 % for the SMEs, decrease of the social contributions for the micro-companies, back-to-school bonuses for families, minimum pension for women who have had at least 4 children and never contributed for their pension, premiums for women who will get a child less than 24 months after the birth of the precedent one… Prime Minister Morawiecki, which discourse is more focused on economy than the one of his predecessor Beata Szydło, does not miss an opportunity to flaunt the (real) results of his government concerning deficits and economical growth, and the State television that boasted the successes of the PO-PSL government and hit on the conservative opposition until 2015, does today boast every evening at 7 the successes of the PiS government while hitting on the liberal opposition. Therefore, as the level of the social allowances remains very modest despite the undeniable efforts of the PiS in this domain, and actually, because of these efforts and the propaganda of success that is going along with the social action of the government, some groups are getting impatient.
The protest movement of the relatives of disabled persons has got furthermore an unexpected support from the feminist organisations at the origin of the “black protests” against the abortion-ban bill that intends to forbid eugenic abortions. The liberal deputy who let the protesters enter into the building of the Sejm last April explained herself their motivations: “from the moment where the PiS obliges the Polish women to give birth to the children and does not help the ones who are already living and struggling for living, I am not surprised that the parents are determined.” That was a clear allusion to the “stop abortion”-bill that was adopted in the first reading in January but is still blocked today at the Sejm as the PiS is not really its author. This support for disabled persons by organisations and activists who are favourable to the possibility of killing them in their mother’s womb was not everybody’s taste. However, they do not have the monopoly of hypocrisy. Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the PiS, was shocked in 2014 that the PO-PSL government did not accept all the demands of the relatives of disabled persons. In 2018, he is not any more when the PiS government reacts in a quite similar way. The turnaround of the leaders of the liberal party Civic Platform (PO) was the same in reverse direction.
According to an opinion poll published at the mid of May by the paper Rzeczpospolita, 80 % of the Poles would support the satisfaction of both demands of disabled persons and their relatives who protested at the Sejm. More then the half of the Poles would even welcome the government to give up for the moment the back-to-school bonus announced on 14 April if this might allow to satisfy those demands.
Translated from French by Visegrád Post.