An independent postal workers’ union, the SOS-21, announced on Monday that their members will be joining the transport workers’ strike on Thursday. SOS-21 members are employees of the postal service’s logistics department. Previously, only the transport department unions of the Czech Postal Service had planned to join the nationwide strike. The biggest union within the Czech Postal Service, which counts some 15,000 members, will not be participating, although its chairman said that his union agreed with the organizers. With 36,000 employees, the Czech Postal Service is the nation’s biggest employer.
On Monday, Petr Blažek, the head of the transport department of the Prague Public Transit Company, reacted to the president’s proposal to substitute private busses for public transportation on Thursday, when a transport strike will hit the capital. He said that the company had already considered this; however, private bus companies did not have the capacity to make up for the standstill of public transportation. He added that this solution was not realistic and that private companies would never have the resources to replace public transportation, especially during peak hours. The mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda, has not yet reacted to President Václav Klaus’s statement.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas, in a public appearance on Monday, called on
the country’s union leaders to resume negotiations with the government.
He labeled the planned transport strike and road blockades a transgression
into the sphere of politics that the opposition would ultimately benefit
from. While the government was not ready to give up its reforms, coalition
leaders were willing to make certain concessions to the unions, for example
in the area of the retirement age and other elements of the pension reform,
the prime minister said.
The unions have labeled these concessions insufficient and say they are not planning to cancel a nationwide transport strike to take place on Thursday.
Czech President Václav Klaus raised the issue of the looming transport strike at a meeting on Monday with residents in the Plzeň area. The president charged that the unions organizing the strike (which is expected to paralyze public transport in the capital and other major cities and towns on Thursday) were following political aims. The strike is in protest of the government’s planned reforms, which include changes to the health care and pension systems. The president recommended that the government take a far tougher stance, saying that if he were in government or was the mayor of Prague, he would rent private buses across the country to replace public transport. Mr. Klaus was in the Plzeň area to meet with citizens ahead of his upcoming 70th birthday.
The Transport Ministry may take advantage of Thursday’s nationwide transport strike to repair rails across the country, a spokesperson for the ministry said Monday. Transport Minister Radek Šmerda will be negotiating with the unions on Tuesday to determine whether the ministry may be able to send repair trains onto the rails to take advantage of the standstill in rail traffic. The railway workers’ union joined the transport strike in protest of an earlier retirement age, which is part of a planned pension reform.
The association of trade unions, ČMKOS, and the association of independent unions, ASO, have announced that as well as a nationwide transport strike, they are planning to hold a demonstration in the center of Prague on Thursday. The deputy chairman of the ČMKOS added that some blockades would be held, and that the strike was not directed against the country’s citizens but against its government. Leaders from both union associations called on all unions to support the strike, even if they are not directly participating.
A nationwide transport strike planned for Monday was averted when a Prague court ruled that the trade unions had not announced the protest sufficiently ahead of time. The transport unions, which are opposing government reforms, have now rescheduled the strike for Thursday, June 16. While they have lifted an unpopular call to block roads and highways, Thursday’s strike will be even longer than originally planned, from midnight to midnight, and may extend to other professions, such as teachers and businessmen. Earlier today we talked about the situation
In related news, union representatives have questioned the Prague
Municipal Court’s ban as well as the court’s impartiality. According
the unions, the advance warning cited in its decision did not apply in
case, arguing the strike was “in the economic interest of all”. On
Saturday, the unions were caught off guard by the court’s decision even
as heads arrived for last-minute negotiations with the government. This
prompted heated response by representatives who called the cabinet
‘cowardly’ and the court decision a mere ‘scrap of paper’. Despite
postponing the strike, the unions say they will file a complaint with the
International Labour Organisation, due to meet in Geneva.
Had the original strike gone ahead on Monday, the unions could have been held accountable for all damages and losses, which had been estimated to reach as high as 200 million crowns. On Saturday Prime Minister Petr Nečas warned the unions that if it did go ahead they would be held accountable for every crown.
Czech labour unions have postponed a nationwide transport strike against
the government's fiscal reforms until Thursday, June 16. Originally the
strike was to have taken place on Monday but the unions backed down
following a decision by the Prague Municipal Court at the weekend. The
court ruled that organisers had failed to give necessary advance warning
three working days and banned the strike as a result.
Railway union head Jaroslav Pejsa said on Czech Television on Sunday that the strike, now moved to Thursday, will last a full 24 hours. The nationwide protest action is expected to paralyse public transport in Prague and other major cities and towns. Blockades in key areas of major highways and routes are also expected. The police force is preparing to monitor developments on the day to try and keep situations from getting out of hand and to keep traffic moving.
A poll commissioned by public broadcaster Czech TV and conducted by the SC&C agency has suggested that three-fifths of Czechs support the planned public transport strike but by the same number disagree with blockades on major highways and roads. A quarter of those queried said they would actively take part if it were a general strike. The poll was conducted on June 10 and 11 relying on almost 700 respondents. Half of those asked said the government’s planned reforms, including changes to the health care and pension systems, were ‘unacceptable’, while a quarter disliked them but said they were necessary.
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