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Last week, Poland ’s biggest independent medical rescuers union – The Nationwide Trade Union of Medical Rescue Employees (Krajowy Zwiazek Zawodowy Pracownikow Ratownictwa Medycznego) KZZ PRM - passed a historic motion of solidarity with Palestinian rescuers, and against Israeli occupation.

The statement, agreed upon at the Union’s national conference on October 6th in Piotrkow Trybunalski, southern Poland, condemned the Israeli occupation and its’ violation of international law and announced plans to form twinning relationships with Palestinian ambulance stations in Gaza and the West Bank.

The KZZ PRM’s statement said: ‘Nowhere else in the world is Occupation and the contempt for international and humanitarian law more obvious and clear, and nowhere has it lasted so long, than in the case of Occupied Palestine.

‘This is why we are urging rescuers from the whole of Europe and the whole world to support Palestinian emergency rescuers and why we treat our declaration as a stand against the occupation.’

The declaration is the first of its kind to be passed by a trade union in Poland . It marks the beginnings of a civil society current of active opposition to Israeli occupation and apartheid inside a country known as ‘ Israel ’s Best Friend in Europe ’.

The KZZ PRM has 6,000 members throughout Poland . Their struggles internally are focused on resisting privatisation of the public rescue and health services, gender equality and women’s rights in the paramedic profession, as well as the retention of employee status.

Under the Polish government’s sweeping privatisation plan – which will see the remaining 20% of the un-privatised public sector, including the entire health sector, go under the hammer - Polish paramedics will be reduced to self-employed subcontractors and stripped of their employment rights.

General Secretary Robert Szulc has received death-threats linked to his union activism in Piotrkow. Union Treasurer and Executive Committee member Basia Jasinska, is taking her local council of Czestochowa to court for sexual discrimination after being denied the right to work as a paramedic because of her gender, in spite of her professional qualification. The Union believes she is being targeted for her trade union activism.

The privatisation plan will also mean that patients will have to pay for non-essential call-outs – to be determined by paramedics - and that rescuers will have to buy their own equipment. Already, under the plan, 150 drivers – out of 300 – face the sack in Katowice city, with the remaining medics being forced to drive ambulances instead.

The KZZ PRM union also needs international solidarity to defend public services, jobs, and women’s rights to work as paramedics.

Despite the radically different circumstances that Polish and Palestinian medical rescuers work under, Polish medical rescuers have pledged solidarity and practical support to their brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank .

The Polish trade unionists were moved in paricular by the urgency of the situation in Gaza where 16 medical rescuers were killed in 22-days by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead this January.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health , Israel has killed 56 medical rescuers since the beginning of the second intifada (2000) – an average of one every two months, and injured over 500 in the same period.

Contacts KZZ PRM site

The Defend the Rescuers Campaign website and the statement the KZZ PRM endorsed is here:

For solidarity ideas and pledges for Polish medics or in English