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Polish Nurses to End Street Camp Protest

Hundreds of Polish nurses who have camped outside the prime minister's office for almost a month to publicise their pay demands on Friday said they would call off the fruitless protest .

Poland's state-employed medical workers are notoriously overworked and underpaid, like their counterparts across most of the former communist bloc.

Dorota Gardias, head of the OZZPP national nurses' union, said the protesters would on Sunday take down what has grown into a village-like protest site with tents, a kitchen and even a canvas clinic.

"The struggle will continue. We are sad, but that's how it is when someone says, 'No. Full stop,'" said Gardias.

The nurses pitched camp in central Warsaw on June 19 and had rejected previous calls to evacuate, despite conservative Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's refusal to give ground.

Pay talks between the government and medical unions broke down on Tuesday.

The government said that Poland lacks the budget to grant health workers major pay hikes. It offered pay increases in 2008 but the unions wanted increases this year.

Poland's hospital doctors, however, said that they were continuing their own protest -- in which they are refusing to provide all but emergency medical services or carry out administrative duties -- which started on May 21.

"The only thing we've managed to get so far is the upholding of the pay increases that were awarded last year," said Krzysztof Bukiel, head of the OZZL doctors' union.

Polish nurses earn the equivalent of 290-340 euros (390-450 dollars) a month, while the average pay packet for hospital doctors is 395 euros, not including overtime.

The average salary across professions in Poland is around 660 euros.


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