Current Affairs Czech forwarding firms launch border protest

27-02-2004 | Daniela Lazarová

Czech forwarding firms and customs agents on Friday stopped clearing goods at eight of the county's busiest border crossings. The move comes in protest of the government's reluctance to discuss compensation for companies that will have to sack up to 1,500 employees after Czech accession to the EU.

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Truck drivers at the forwarding office, photo: CTKTruck drivers at the forwarding office, photo: CTK Some 20 thousand trucks cross Czech borders every day, and Friday is the busiest day of the week. Even minor problems at one of the country's border crossings can result in a long pile up and hours of waiting. A border protest of any kind is therefore a truck drivers' nightmare. The association of Czech forwarding firms and customs agents is well aware of this and, in planning the protest, it carefully picked the crossings where a blockade would hurt most. At 8 am on Friday customs agents stopped clearing goods at six of the busiest border crossings with Germany - Jirikov, Cinovec, Vojtanov, Pomezi nad Ohri, Rozvadov and Folmava - and two of the busiest checkpoints with Slovakia - Breclav and Sudomerice. Twenty thousand trucks carrying around 40 thousand tons of goods could thus remain stranded on either side of the border. If the association of forwarding firms and customs agents decides to carry on with the protest over the weekend - the situation could be much worse. The association's chairman Frantisek Zugar refused to say how long the protest could last:

"When the protest will end depends on developments and that decision is fully in the hands of the association's board. The board will be present at the protest and will make an on the spot decision, depending on the circumstances. We expect the protest to last until late tonight at least if the government remains unwilling to negotiate."

For the present time the government remains adamant saying it will not give taxpayer's money to private companies. But the fact remains that these private companies happen to control two thirds of all goods going in and out of the country by road. And they are determined to use all the leverage they have.

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