Union representatives and employers are to meet on Wednesday to discuss their position on planned government reforms. Both oppose the government’s plans to make changes to the pension system. The head of the trade union umbrella organization ČMKOS said that both unions and employers share similar views on the government’s plans, and the meeting will serve to come up with a unified position on the issue. The trade unions have announced a general strike to take place June 10 should the centre-right cabinet decide not to relax its health and pension reforms.
Czech trade unions will halt railway services and block roads after June 10th unless the centre-right cabinet softens its health and pension reforms, the second-biggest union group said on Monday. The Association of Independent Unions said it was willing to negotiate until June 10 but made it clear that unless a compromise agreement was reached by that date it would launch a strike and transport blockade without further delay. The government, although weakened by infighting, has so far refused to budge and has stuck to its plan to cut the country’s budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP in 2013.
Czech Railways trade unions will go on strike against the government reforms, their leader Bohumír Dufek said on Sunday. Mr Dufek said further details about the strike would be announced on Monday, adding the strike was the only way to make the government reconsider its reform plans. Should the government health care and pension reforms be implemented, railway trade unions demand a 5-percent pay rise for employees in the public and private sectors, the trade union leader said..
City transport workers in Ostrava are to go on a one day strike against low wages on June 1st, the ctk news agency reports. Trade unions have been pushing for an eight percent pay rise but the transport company is not willing to go higher than 3 percent. The company employs 2,000 people whose average monthly wage is 22,000 crowns. Trade unions have warned that they will not let up the pressure until they get a positive response. Talks with the city transport company and city hall officials have dragged for over six months.
The transport workers’ union is preparing a general strike that will affect motorway, railway and urban public transportation, to take place in June. Its president, Luboš Pomajbík, announced the decision on Wednesday, stating that unless the government reaches an agreement with the trade union umbrella organization ČMKOS regarding planned reforms in the country’s pension, social and health care systems, the strike will be held as planned. He added that the exact time of the strike will be kept secret until the last minute. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said he deplored the union’s decision and that he would not play into demands for further negotiations regarding the planned reforms.
The head of the trade union umbrella organisation ČMKOS, Jaroslav Zavadil, has estimated that a major demonstration held in Prague by the unions on Saturday will cost around 4.5 million crowns. Speaking on Czech TV, he said the sum was roughly half that of a similar demonstration last autumn. Costs were linked, at least in part to hundreds of buses for protestors, he suggested. More than 40,000 people gathered on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Saturday to send a message to the government they were against planned reforms in the pension, social and health care systems. Opponents charge the reforms have been poorly and hastily planned, without proper debate, and warned they will hurt Czech citizens and employees. The minister for labour and social affairs, Jaromír Drábek, countered by saying he put stock in proper talks over ‘shouting’ on the square, accusing the trade unions themselves of refusing to sit down at the negotiating table.
The trade unions have held a major demonstration on Prague’s Wenceslas square. According to organisers and the police more than 40,000 people came out to protest government reform plans. The event lasted roughly an hour and a half. Protestors charged that the government’s wide-ranging reforms in the health care, tax, social security and pension systems had been poorly and hastily planned, without proper debate and said they would hurt Czech citizens, employees, and the disabled. The minister for labour and social affairs, Jaromír Drábek, told the Czech news agency in response that the demonstration made little sense, saying he put stock in proper talks over ‘shouting’ on the square. He said it was the trade unions themselves who refused to sit down for negotiations.
Other bills approved by the cabinet on Wednesday include the new Civil Code. No major changes were made to the bill’s 3,000 paragraphs, which make it the most extensive modification of Czech legislature in 50 years. The code’s five sections deal with questions of private and family law, property questions, and contract law as well as inheritance issues. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs pushed through the first part of its reform package, which includes an amendment to disability benefits, welfare services and state-provided social aid. The final version of the reforms grants concessions for complaints posed by disabled persons. The key bill of the Defence Ministry, the “White Book” that charts the development of the army for the next decade, was also approved. In addition defining to general principles of the army, the bill also cancels a number of military training grounds and units.
State expenses for social welfare and unemployment last year grew by five billion to roughly 700 billion crowns. The figures come from the state closing account, which the government submitted to Parliament on Monday. Social welfare and unemployment thus amounted to two fifths of all of the money spent from the state budget in 2010. The majority of the expenses came from pension payments, the total amount of which was put at 346 billion crowns. The government’s austerity package, passed last year, was intended to decrease that amount by 23.5 billion; it was shot down by the Constitution Court however and is going through Parliament again.
Trade union leaders are expected to make public the details of an open letter to the prime minister slamming the government’s reforms. The CTK news agency says the letter, sent on Thursday, contains harsh criticism of the government’s pension and health reform bills. It was sent ahead of a tripartite meeting between trade unions, government representatives and employers due to take place next Friday. Trade unions have repeatedly criticized the fact that they are either not consulted about far-reaching reforms or that their reservations are not taken into account. The umbrella organization of Czech and Moravian trade unions has called a protest demonstration on Prague’s Wenceslas Square a day after the tripartite meeting saying it should be regarded as a final warning before the launch of radical protest actions.
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