Trade union representatives and Prague City Transport officials on Tuesday agreed on the observance of certain principles which would guarantee public safety and prevent damage to property. Trade unions have promised to bring all vehicles –be it trams busses or metro cars - to the depot on Wednesday night and said they would not try to prevent strike breakers or management-hired replacements from manning them. Privately run bus lines in and around Prague will remain in operation.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Interior Minister Jan Kubice are both expected to attend Wednesday’s crisis committee meeting at Prague City Hall. The meeting is planned for 2pm and will revolve around measures aimed at mitigating the impact of Thursday’s strike. Interior Minister Jan Kubice warned earlier that blockades would not be tolerated as a form of protest and that police would be out in force to maintain order. Prime Minister Nečas said on Tuesday that the government was putting 150 defence ministry buses and minibuses at the town hall’s disposal. Czech Railways has said it plans to rent another 200 busses to cover vital transport lines.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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