Czech Airlines pilots to go on strike over contract dispute

12-06-2003

Czech Airlines pilots have announced they will go on strike as of next Tuesday after management said it would not give in to their demand for 170 percent higher wages in the next two years and improved contracts. Technical and ground staff are to decide on Monday whether they will back the pilots' association in a strike that would paralyze Prague's main international airport.

Although the pilots' association has been talking about strike action for some time, and even obstructed outgoing flights by slowing down flight preparation procedures for a period of three weeks, the dispute has now reached a head. A spokesman for the pilots' trade union said on Wednesday that talks over higher wages and improved contracts had broken down and strike action was inevitable unless the management had a last minute change of mind.

After a crisis meeting of the management on Thursday morning, Czech Airlines spokesman Daniel Plovajko said that the break down in negotiations was one-sided and the management was still willing to negotiate a compromise.

"The chairman and president of Czech Airlines has offered trade unions another meeting but they have not yet replied. I want to stress that even though they announced a strike to the media on Tuesday we still don't have any official statement from them."

Is it impossible for the management to meet their demands?

"Yes, we have declared that these demands are absolutely unacceptable for us and the board of directors have confirmed the management's stand."

So what happens if the strike goes ahead? What will happen at Prague's Ruzyne Airport?

"It is difficult to answer this question because, as I said, we do not have an official statement from the pilots' trade union. We do not know how many pilots would participate in a possible strike so it is difficult to predict what may happen. On the other hand we do have a manual on what to do in the event of strike action and the primary goal is to minimize the impact of the strike on passengers."

So you would be able to re-book flights, to use other airlines ?

"Of course, these are standard procedures. We'd focus on charter services and make sure we get passengers who are on holiday abroad home. Some passengers might have to go by different routes or make a stopover in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris and then continue from there by other carriers -or take other carriers out of Prague. "

Is the management preparing to fire anyone if the strike goes ahead?

"No, no, that is not an issue that has been discussed. Of course, if the strike continues for a longer time it would financially damage the company and a possible last resort might be to cut down on the number of employees in the company, but I think it is too early to speculate about this."

Two years ago the management backed down at the last minute in the face of strike action. What are the chances of history repeating itself?

"I am not a fortune teller and I cannot predict the outcome but I can declare that we are ready to negotiate and of course our goal is to achieve social peace within the company and prevent a possible strike."

But you are not going to fulfill the demands that are on the table now?

"The current demands are really unacceptable for us and would clearly and obviously have a serious impact on the future of this company."

12-06-2003