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The Advisory Council was created on the initiative of the Women's Strike activists who were inspired by the Council formed by the Belarusian opposition. The organisation is supposed to collect demands that are being voiced during the ongoing protests and to seek solutions to them. The Consultative Council met for the first time on November 1st.
On Tuesday, it announced the outcome of its first three weeks of discussions and outreach.
Approximately 800 people have participated in talks organised on particular subjects. The Advisory Council worked out demands in the areas of women's rights, labour, health, education, climate and the secular state.
What should come after the Constitutional Tribunal’s "ruling" on abortion?
The Advisory Council does not recognise the validity of the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling from October 22th, citing the fact that some of those who form the Tribunal are not formally judges due to the defective nature of their appointment. The Council does, however, give concrete proposals for actions to be taken as a response to the ‘ruling’.
The council suggests that any national court or tribunal which faces a dispute linked to the decision adopted by the defective Constitutional Tribunal may send a request for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU.
"In the face of the numerous repressions against steadfast judges in Poland, the situation is very difficult and a so-called chilling effect may aggravate it even more. However, we would like to underline that it is a violation of the fundamental tenets of the EU to start a disciplinary proceeding in response to a simple request for a preliminary ruling'. - notes the Council.
The Council announced that the Solidarity Fund, formed by the Women's Strike, will serve to offer support to doctors and judges who refuse to comply with the Constitutional Tribunal’s judgment.
- Mrs Przyłębska's statement of 22 October is not a judgment; judges do not have to comply with it. Similarly, doctors are obliged only to respect the already existing laws. If you were to face punishment for acting accordingly with these rules, we will support you,' emphasized Marta Lempart from the Women’s Strike.
She also underlined the possibility of some additional steps being taken on the international area, i.e. such as a potential for the European Commission's to bring a case against the illegal destruction of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland to the CJEU, individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee or to the Committee against Torture as well as the petitions to the European Parliament for violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Council also demands that Poland remains a signatory to the Istanbul Convention. In July, the Minister for Justice Zbigniew Ziobro submitted an application to the Ministry of the Family to work on its rejection. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has referred the matter to the Constitutional Tribunal, which is to decide whether the convention complies with the Polish constitution.
In the Council's opinion, such actions put us clearly on the road to Polexit. "Ziobro can leave the EU if he wants, but we are staying". - concludes the Council.
Education reform. First, the resignation of Minister Przemysław Czarnek
The Advisory Council recalls that 88 000 people signed the petition to dismiss the Minister of Education and Science. The council demands his resignation because of his homophobic statements and his incompetence as well as his attempts to intimidate teachers and students who support the Women's Strike protests.
The Council recalls in this context Article 54 of the Polish Constitution, which guarantees everyone the freedom of expression and possibility to obtain and disseminate information.
- Terror and intimidation have reached an unprecedented scale under the leadership of Przemysław Czarnek. The Minister resorts to the nuclear option, which is the use of Education Superintendent's Office. We offer help to all those who are persecuted and intimidated," declared Dorota Łaboda, a Warsaw city councilwoman and the president of the „Parents Have a Voice“ Foundation.
The Council also calls for the strengthening of equal education opportunities and for the provision of efficient online education that is currently replacing the regular school activities due to the pandemic. Among other things, the Council proposes a study on the quality of Internet connection in individual municipalities and districts; the provision of appropriate funds for municipalities to finance the purchase of equipment for students, pupils and teachers; as well as the launch of a nationwide, free of charge online learning platform.
The Council is also proposing to increase the age criterion for the entitlement to child care allowance - currently a parent is entitled to care allowance if his or her child’s age does not exceed 8 years, the Council calls for the limit to be equal to 11 years.
Rapid financial aid for healthcare
The Advisory Council maintained its proposal from its first meeting during which it pushed for the state to immediately increase spending on health care to 10% of GDP (today it is 4.7% of GDP). The money would be spent on equipment and medicines for hospitals and as well as increasing access to all forms of treatment.
- We call for a European level of funding for health care. It is an appalling situation when hospitals in the middle of Europe lack oxygen for the sick or body bags for cadavers - Katarzyna Pikulska, a doctor and the chairwoman of the 'Skalpel' Surgeons' Agreement, explained during the press conference.
The Council is also calling for the existing anti-Covid bill to be published and turned into law, with guarantees of additional benefits for medical practitioners and their immediate disbursement. The bill was signed by the President, but has so far not been published by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister because the government is afraid of the financial consequences of the regulations imposed by the law.
Another proposal concerns the introduction of wage conditions for healthcare workers by the end of May 2021, which were included in the citizens' draft bill submitted in 2017 by the Medical Professions Agreement.
The Council also calls for better access to contraception (including the 'day-after' pill available without a prescription), universal vaccination against HPV, and increased access to free cytology and breast tests.
Workers' rights. People working on the basis of civil law contracts should also have the right to a pension, paid leave and health care.
The Council calls for an end to unpaid or partly-paid internships and for a minimum hourly wage for interns and apprentices.
It also calls for higher pay for women, particularly in the social care sectors, where women account for the majority of workers. The Council recalls that the average wage gap between women and men is around 20%.
It also demands to put an end to so-called “garbage contracts“, or job contracts based on civil law provisions. According to the Council, it is necessary to introduce public labour control and to enhance the entitlements and funding of the National Labour Inspectorate in order to prosecute dishonest employers.
The Council also calls for transparency of salaries in administration, in public service providers funded by the central and local governments, and in every company that the state remains a shareholder of.
A nationwide Citizens' Climate Panel
Another proposal consists of organizing a nationwide Citizens’ Climate Panel, which would be organized in a form of a three or four-month-long debate with government representatives, experts and activists about the steps that need to be taken in the context of climate change.
A secular state. "The national apostasy“
The Council calls on those who formally belong to the Catholic Church, but do not identify with it, to carry out apostasy and not to baptise children purely based on the strength of social pressure.
- We do not propose to fight against religion and the Church, but we must defend ourselves against the attacks from the clergy. We are not proposing the atheization of the Polish society, only the equality of all citizens and respect for freedom of beliefs ,' said Bożena Przyłuska, an activist of the Warsaw Women's Strike and vice-president of the Congress of Secularism association.
The Council also brought forward a proposal to terminate the concordat agreement between Poland and the Holy See.
Furthermore, it demands the secularization of Polish education and is planning to support young people who do not want to attend religion at school. As part of the Women's Strike structures, a network of mediators will be set up to help establish a dialogue, for example, between children and parents who are convinced of the need for such classes. The Council will create a guideline containing arguments which could be used by young people in such conversations.
The Council also announced the creation of a network of local government officials who are in favour of secularism. This has to do with the proposal to separate the state from the Church. The Council will draft and develop regulations concerning relations between representatives of authorities (officials and employees of local government institutions) and clergy; the regulations will cover issues related to the protection of a religiously neutral image of offices and institutions, as well as rules concerning religious displays by the state representatives.
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