Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Continued Protests against Privatization of Cafeterias and Political Manipulation

Members of ZSP and the Tenants Defense Committee visited the local council meeting today in the Central District of Warsaw to protest against plans to privatize some school cafeterias there, which would lead, among other things, to the firing of 186 cooks. What we encountered would be beyond belief – if only we weren't already convinced that the political process is completely rigged in this city and the democratic process is completely ignored by the ruling neoliberal party.

A short history of the decision making process. On March 20, there was a decision of the local council in the Central District, where the ruling party wants to privatize the cafeterias. We protested there and about 100 people went to the council meeting to show their opposition. As a result, some councilpeople submitted a proposal to hold a session devoted to this topic. It was approved and on March 22, the council announced a session for March 29.

On March 28, the Chairwoman of the Council cancelled her office hours. The next day, parents, cooks and other interested people went to the council. But the ruling party, the Civic Platform, boycotted the session, so there was no quorom. The next day, ZSP held a protest at the Council and City Hall.

On March 4 there was another attempt to hold a meeting. Again, the councilpeople from Civic Platform simply did not come (except for the Chairwoman). The Chairwoman, Agnieszka Gierzyńska-Kierwińska, just announced that there was no quorom and that her party said a decision had already been made, because there was a position of her party from March 29.

People were quite angry at this whole farse. She was asked if any of the Councilpeople had any written justification for their absence, since they are obliged to be at Sessions (and are paid for it). It is usual that they must justify their absence. To the amazement of the crowd, Gierzyńska-Kierwińska announced that they are not absent from the Session – because if there is no quorom, there is no session. The topic was examined more and more and one of the members of the Board finally explained that yes, they are obliged to come to the Sessions – but there is no sanction if they don't.


There was a long debate. People asked how much these Sessions that don't happen cost – an allusion to the neoliberal claims that they need to save money. Then there was a question about whether it made any sense to speak... since this was not going to be an official or recorded meeting. But since there was a colleague recording the farse, it could still be seen by the public. The first speaker, from the parent's association of one school, had the Position on the Cafeterias. Just to clarify, the council can make decisions through resolutions, or make positions. So he asked where was the resolution of the Council to privatize the schools. Of course he knew that there was none, but he wanted the politicians to admit it. There was silence and they tried to get around it. No, there was no resolution, just the position. No, it was not the position of the council, because the session that day also had no quorom.

He and other people asked then, what that is and were told that it was a „recommendation”. So they asked if that meant that the directors of the schools can say, OK, we read your recommendation but we won't implement it. The answer from the infamous Mayor of the Central District was „no”.

One of the Deputy mayors apparently got a bit panicked and tried to correct this, but the Mayor cut him off. People demanded to know why „no”.

It was also mentioned that the competence to decide this matter really belongs to the directors of the school. But the answer to it is that, they'll have no choice, because the city simply won't give them money.

The level of political sleaze was incredible. Somebody said that the politicians were playing stalling games and manipulating in such a way that they were hoping that people would get tired of coming to their meetings and maybe give up. But we promised that they won't get away with this so easily.

Comrades from ZSP also visited another local council session in the Mokotow neighbourhood where the same issue was being discussed. There  voting lasted until midnight amidst many protests of parents, workers and residents who surrounded the councilpeople's tables. They rejected a proposal against privatization by one vote, despite the negative opinions of the Education Commission of the Central and Mokotow neighbourhoods.