Trade unions have planned a protest march through the city on Thursday. Protesters are to gather outside the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry on Palacky Square, proceed to the Health Ministry, the Finance Ministry and conclude their protest at Prague Castle. President Klaus has strongly condemned the strike saying striking workers should be sacked.
The number of companies planning to recruit people in the third quarter is double the number of those which have signalled layoffs, according to a poll conducted by Manpower Index. Out of 750 Czech companies polled six percent of them said they were planning to recruit employees, three percent said they would have to affect lay-offs and over 90 percent said their work-force would remain unchanged. Manpower says it has registered a marked improvement in all spheres with the exception of the public sector which is having to affect cost-cutting measures across the board.
A group of young people on Facebook have organized their own protest action against the trade union strike saying they plan to board the last metro on Wednesday night and refuse to leave it. The organizers have called on sympathizers to bring refreshments and musical instruments and prepare to spend the night. The protest group says trade unions have no right to curtail what for many is a prepaid service in the interest of a certain segment of the population.
The Czech Republic is gearing up for a 24-hour transport strike over government reforms. The strike, called by the country’s trade unions, will begin at midnight Wednesday and will affect rail services throughout the Czech Republic, as well as tram and bus transport in the big cities predominantly Prague, Brno and Ostrava. Trade unions say Prague’s metro will be brought to a standstill for nearly 30 hours and traffic jams are expected in connection with planned road blockades of crucial nodes in the capital. Flights should not be affected by the protest. The strike action is in protest of pensions, health care and tax reforms planned by the centre-right government. The cabinet has said it is willing to negotiate, but trade unions insist that the concessions offered are inadequate.
Preparations for a day-long nationwide transport strike, set for Thursday, June 16, have continued to grow in intensity. Along with the expected freeze of all public transport in major towns and cities including the capital, a demonstration has been planned in the centre of Prague. The transport unions have also warned they will send a sharp message to the government over its planned reforms by using blockades in key areas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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