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.
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.
The Prague Municipal Court has issued a preliminary ban against a nationwide strike by the transport unions which had been set for Monday. On Saturday, the court ruled that organisers – who hoped to protest the government’s planned reforms by paralysing public transport in the capital and other major towns - failed to give due warning. Under the law, the strike had to be announced at least three days in advance, allowing for appropriate steps to be taken to lessen damages. Union representatives received copies of the decision as they arrived for last-minute negotiations with the centre-right government. The talks, consequently, did not take place.
In response union leaders criticised the government for petitioning the court and have so far warned that the strike will go ahead. If it does, it is expected to paralyse public transport in Prague, Brno and other major towns and cities, as well as on the country’s railways and at points on a number of key routes. Under the court ruling, however, the unions can be held accountable for resulting damages and the prime minister has warned they will be. Union lawyers are examining the decision and an announcement by the strike committee is expected on Sunday.
In related news, the country’s police have made clear they will be out in force on Monday to try and maintain the flow of traffic despite plans by the miner’s union – which is joining the strike – to block key motorways and inter-city routes. The police will also try and maintain order if situations become heated. Because Monday is a regular work day the force has said it will begin implementing necessary steps a day earlier. Sunday regularly sees heightened traffic as weekenders return home. During the strike, the police will be relying on the force’s helicopters to also help monitor developments.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas, meanwhile, responded to the unions on Friday by saying the government will not budge in the face of protests which he said took citizens hostage. He did say the government was prepared to discuss some parameters of the reforms. In a statement released by the Office of the President, President Václav Klaus also criticised the move by the unions, calling it “political blackmail”.
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