Monday, 15 July 2019

HN: Czech workers start going on strike more often

ČTK |
6 April 2017

Prague, April 5 (CTK) - A wave of workers' strikes for higher salaries has returned to the Czech Republic in a time of economic prosperity, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote on Wednesday in connection with a protest by drivers of regular bus connections.

Bus drivers in three Czech regions are going on strike on Thursday. Last Saturday, employees of the Skoda Auto car maker went on strike. The trade unions of the Mitas tyre producer announced that they would refuse to work next Tuesday. Shortly before Christmas, a part of the employees of the Ceska posta state-run postal services company went on strike.

Jaroslav Soucek, leader of the Kovo metallurgic union association, said even more protests may come. "The negotiations firms hold with trade unions are changing only slowly," he told the paper, adding that firms are rather unwilling to raise the pay although they are faring well.

CMKOS umbrella unions head Josef Stredula said the unions want to reach agreement with the firms rather than go on strike.

But Confederation of Industry deputy head Zbynek Frolik said the unions blackmailed the employers. As the unemployment rate is record low in the country and about 140,000 workers are lacking, the labour market is a sufficiently strong engine for pay rise, he said.

When considering pay rise, the firms must take into account that the period of prosperity may end in a few years, Frolik said.

He referred to the fact that the Czech currency is to get stronger soon. "As soon as the Czech central bank ends its interventions, the price of work will increase by 10 percent for (Czech) exporters within two years. Nine years have passed since the crisis, an economic drop will come soon again," Frolik told HN.

Apart from a possible increase in the prices of Czech products sold abroad after the end of the interventions and the trade union pushing for higher wages, the firms face pressure from the government that "repeatedly increases salaries of civil servants and also exerts pressure on salaries in the private sector," he said.

Last November, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) had talks with the trade unions of the Ahold CZ company. When Sobotka heard that the average gross monthly wage in the Albert supermarket chain is 12,500 crowns, he said this was unacceptable. Frolik criticised this political pressure exerted before the autumn general election.

The average monthly wage in the country was 27,590 crowns last year.

However, Sobotka's negotiations with Ahold were a success. The pay of Albert employees increased by 8.5 percent on average as of January. In consequence, the employees of the Lidl supermarket chain increased by one fourth.

Last year, the government raised the minimum wage twice.

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