A public pay policy that can't be licked

POLAND. Polish teachers are up in arms following the decision to employ 3,000 lollipop persons to patrol crossings outside schools. It's not that they think the patrols unnecessary, but by an odd anomaly of Poland's wage structure, a crossing-guard earns more than a newly-qualified teacher.

The 3,000 lollipop persons (the Poles have colloquially adopted the equivalent of the English name) are on a six-month trial.

They were recruited and trained under a government job creation scheme and receive a minimum 510 zloty (Pounds 116) a month, of which, for the trial period, 427 zloty will be repaid to their employers - the local councils - from the government's Labour Fund. Young graduate teachers get 498 zl.

Jozef Zaciura, head of the Polish Teachers' Union, said this is an absurd situation. Lollipop persons, he says, should receive at most the official minimum wage of 370 zl.

However, as Marian Galas of the National Labour Office points out, "lollipopping" counts as a public-works job, and the wages are pegged to the national average income. Teachers' salaries are not.

Preliminary reports from the crossings have been that the job is not without risk.

Many drivers ignore the lollipop signs, or swear at their bearers.

One guard working the crossing at a primary school in south Warsaw reports having been "almost run down" by a car bearing Russian licence plates.

The only come-back the crossing guards have is to take down the licence numbers and notify the police.

Local councils do have the right to increase crossing-guards' pay if they deem it necessary.

If motorists continue to ignore or harass the guards, they may well start asking for danger money.

But if they get it, the teachers will be even angrier.

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