Employees of the embattled mining firm OKD have announced a series of strikes over disputes with the firm’s management related to a new collective agreement. The first four-hour strike will take place November 19; another, one-day strike is scheduled for 10 days later while a three-day strike is scheduled for early December, the leader of the company’s trade union said, adding the strikes could only be averted if the firm accepts the union’s demands. Last week, a majority of OKD workers voted in favour of the strike. Negotiations about a new, four-year collective agreement started in August; due to poor economic results, OKD wants to cut some benefits included in the current agreement. The firm is also planning to close down one of its mines, cutting around 3,000 jobs.
The chairman of the Senate, Social Democrat Milan Štech has urged President Miloš Zeman to speak out about the purpose of a secret meeting he had with deputy heads of the Social Democratic Party in the absence of party leader Bohuslav Sobotka. The meeting, held shortly after the results of the country’s early general elections were announced, is widely regarded as the cue to an attempted coup against the Social Democrat leader. President Zeman who had a number of supporters within the party led by deputy chair Michal Hašek, has not commented on the meeting.
Trade unions in the country’s largest coal mining company OKD have gone on strike alert in protest against the conditions of a proposed collective agreement for 2014-2018. The proposed agreement was put forward by a government mediator after year-long negotiations between trade unions and employers failed to produce results. The head of trade unions at the Paskov mine, which is slated for closure next year, said the strike alert would remain in place until an agreement is reached.
Trade unions in the health sector have gone on strike alert to draw attention to what they describe as a looming crisis in the health sector and social services. The head of the umbrella organization of health and social services employees Dagmar Zitnikova said many hospitals and spa facilities were now on the brink of bankruptcy and these issues needed to be addressed urgently. She called on parties running in October’s general elections to make public their stand on the matter.
Finance Minister Jan Fischer has accused his predecessor Miroslav Kalousek of tolerating violations of the labour code at the ministry while in office. Minister Fischer said that an internal investigation had revealed serious malpractices in the past including violations in work ethics and attendance where favoured employees had had month-long work absences covered by non-existent business trips. Others had been subjected to mobbing at the workplace which their superiors turned a blind eye on. Mr. Fisher said he believed his predecessor could not have been unaware of what was going on.
Representatives of unions, industry and the government met on Friday for three-way talks on the proposal for next year’s budget. Union and industry representatives said that the finance ministry’s draft budget was not conducive enough to economic growth and that the caretaker government should not be so strict in complying with the EU-mandated deficit ceiling of three percent of the GDP. After the talks, Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok announced that the government will not change the 112-billion crown deficit proposed in the draft budget, which is just below three percent of GDP. The outgoing government will be voting on the final proposal next Wednesday, though it will not be discussed by the lower house of parliament until after the general elections in late October. The budget proposal may be significantly altered by the new government and lower house.
The Czech government has refused aid to the mining firm NWR which plans to
cut some 3,000 jobs at its unprofitable Paskov mine in north Moravia. The
interim cabinet will not pay any debts of firm’s owners, will not buy
firm’s subsidiary or the Paskov mine itself, Prime Minister Jiří
said on Wednesday. Instead, the government will focus on assisting those
who will lose their jobs, Mr Rusnok added, arguing it made no sense to
a mine running which loses 1.5 billion crowns each year.
New World Resources said they would close the Paskov mine by the end of next year, a move that would cut around 3,000 jobs. The firm said that if they received between four and six billion crowns in assistance from the Czech government, they would close the plant in 2018.
In related news, the Social Democrats have dismissed a request by the owners of the unprofitable Paskov mine in north Moravia for government assistance to postpone its closure. Deputy chair of the Social Democrat party, Lubomír Zaorálek, told reporters on Wednesday the demand was outrageous. The Social Democrats are expected to win the upcoming general election and form the country’s next government.
Hundreds of angry miners took to the streets of Ostrava on Tuesday to protest against planned wage cuts and growing job insecurity in the region. After a year of negotiations employers and trade union representatives are nowhere near reaching a deal on the 2014 to 2018 collective agreement, and there is a growing fear of layoffs in a region that already has over 100,000 unemployed.
Czech trade unions want the next cabinet to abolish a number of reforms carried out by the previous centre-right administration of Petr Nečas, representatives of the country’s trade union umbrella organization said at a press briefing on Monday. Among the reforms they want abolished is the so-called second pillar of the pension system within which people can transfer part of their compulsory social contributions from the state pay-as-you-go system to private companies. The Social Democrats, who are slated to win the elections, have already said they are prepared to scrap the second pillar. The list of trade union demands also includes minimum wage growth, the construction of 50,000 flats and the introduction of social housing which the Czech Republic completely lacks.