When the Czech Republic's two nuclear power plants Temelin and Dukovany make the headlines it is usually to do with nuclear safety standards or environmental issues. On Tuesday the plants' employees urged journalists to talk about an entirely different matter - their wages.
Since the law stipulates that for safety reasons nuclear power plant employees cannot go on strike, the plants' trade unions organized a joint token protest: a demonstration on rented premises in the vicinity of the Temelin power plant attended by those employees who were not on the Tuesday afternoon shift.
Trade union leader Frantisek Haman explains what the protest is in aid of:
"This protest is to draw attention to the fact that our employer - the power production company CEZ - is not willing to guarantee nuclear power plant employees the present level of real wages. Our demand is an eight percent wage increase as of January first of this year, CEZ is willing to make a deal on three and a half percent which we consider to be totally inadequate given the kind of company we are working for, and the kind of profit it makes. We have increased productivity by 20 percent and we feel that our wages should reflect that."
But - even thought this protest has given their demands greater publicity - how much leverage do the trade unions really have? Their leader Frantisek Haman says the bottom line is that they won't sign a collective agreement, which would reflect badly on the CEZ power utility.
"There is not a chance that we would sign the collective agreement under the present conditions so CEZ will have to come to terms with the fact that it cannot present itself as a stable company which has a collective agreement with its employees."
Meanwhile the power utility CEZ remains unperturbed by this threat, telling journalists that the trade unions have set their sights too high and will have to make concessions before an agreement can be reached. Talks are to continue on Thursday.
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