Many supermarket cashiers are earning a higher monthly wage than some teachers in Poland, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.

The newspaper cites the examples of the popular discount supermarket chains Lidl and Biedronka, which have both recently announced increases in the amount they pay their full-time staff.

From March, a new Lidl employee in Warsaw will earn a gross monthly wage of at least 3,400 zloty (€800), and up to 4,150 zloty, whereas the basic salary of a trainee teacher is just 2,617 zloty (€615).

Biedronka offers new cashiers slightly less – 3,050 to 3,200 zloty monthly – while a store manager has a gross monthly wage of 6,500 zloty.

Despite recent minor salary increases, teaching continues to be a poorly paid profession in Poland. As of January 1, a trainee teacher without a master’s degree earns just over the national minimum wage of 2,600 zloty, according to figures quoted in Strefa Biznesu.

This basic salary increases by less than 50 zloty for the next grade, contract teacher, and up to 2,832 zloty for the next, nominated teacher. Only the top grade, certified teacher, receives a considerably higher monthly wage – 3,324 zloty.

Teachers’ salaries are also subject to increases dependent on other factors, including the number of years they have been working. Teachers with master’s degrees also earn more.

In April 2019, Polish teachers went on strike over low pay. According to data from a poll by the Centre for Public Opinion Research conducted at the beginning of the strike, 44% of the public supported it and 36% were opposed.

The action was particularly controversial because of concerns that it would affect some pupils adversely, including those sitting exams. Striking teachers faced attacks by certain government figures and public TV news broadcasts. Before the strike was announced, the president’s chief of staff suggested that teachers could get more money through benefits by having more children.

Teachers returned to work several weeks later despite not achieving their stated demands for higher salaries, vowing further strike action. To date, this has been limited to go-slow strikes in certain cities on the 8th day of each month, starting in November.

As Gazeta Wyborcza notes, the higher salaries for supermarket cashiers only apply to employees in Warsaw; staff in smaller towns and cities earn less. The salaries of cashiers working for other supermarket chains are also often closer to the minimum wage.

The newspaper also explains that Lidl and Biedronka are two of the better-performing supermarket chains in Poland, and thus able to afford to put wages up. Portuguese-owned Biedronka, the largest chain in Poland, reported a profit of 2.7 billion zloty in 2018, while the German company Lidl posted profits of almost a billion zloty. Tesco, in comparison, lost several hundred million zloty in the same period.

The pay rises come in response to difficulties with attracting employees to the retail sector, the newspaper reports. As well as paying their staff more, companies have been investing in automatic cash desks.

Main image credit: Flickr/Nika Bruc/ (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

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