Smaller unions at one of the Czech Republic’s biggest employers, the state controlled Czech post office today staged a demonstration in the capital. They aimed to highlight what they claim are scandalous working conditions and management practices.
The Czech Post office is one of the biggest and most visible state companies around. It has one of the biggest payrolls in the country with around 30,000 employees and a network of around 4,000 post office spread around the country.
But in spite of its impressive turnover, which reached 91 billion crowns in 2014, the profit margins are fairly slim. The national post office announced a consolidated profit of just 213 million crowns in 2014 and warned that could be the last for a long time.
The post office is seeking to cut costs by slimming down its branch network by bringing in partners to operate smaller post offices. And it’s also been trying to renegotiate its payments from the state for so-called public service operations and to boost over the counter sales at the office which remain under its control.
And that claimed pressure from above to meet sales and other management priorities is one of the factors that has encouraged some smaller post office unions to call a demonstration in the capital Prague on Monday. Workers who can’t get the time off to attend have been encouraged to wear reflexive vests for the day.
Miroslav Prokop of the Federation of Active Employees of the Czech Republic, one of the unions behind Monday’s protest, described how some of the pressure from above was applied:
“The management have to try and fulfill the plans so they create a certain pressure which manifests itself in threats of the sack and the like. There are ceaseless training sessions and follow-ups. The employees must even write self critical letters about what they have done wrong and how they will improve things.”
And the unions complain that management is reluctant to turn short term contracts into permanent ones and that postal workers’ wages have fallen woefully behind the national average with bonuses for overtime or working through the busy Christmas rush simply not paid or unrecognized. Another of the unions behind the protest, SOS 21, says it will seek to get wages back to the national average within three years.
The unions have also called for a parliamentary inquiry into how the post office is being run, saying that there are suspicious and unexplained black holes in the finances.
Czech Post spokesman Matyáš Vitík gave this response to the unions’ complaints:
“The Czech Post management is always ready to discuss matters with union representatives at regular meeting which regularly occur. Unfortunately, we have not heard any specific demands from the side of the smaller union associations and we do not see any solutions coming from this protest.”