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More and more Czechs join trade unions, overall number stagnates

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Prague, Sept 17 (CTK) – Thousands of people joined trade unions in the Czech Republic in the recent period and their number compensated for the number of those leaving the unions, unlike before, when when departures clearly prevailed, leaders of the CMKOS and the ASO umbrella trade unions have told CTK.

The Bohemian and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (CMKOS) was joined by 26,700 people in the past two years, its chairman Josef Stredula said.

The Association of Independent Unions (ASO), too, admitted an increased number of new members in the same period, its chairman Bohumir Dufek said.

Earlier in the past ten years, the CMKOS and the ASO each lost 50 to 65 percent of members.

At present, the CMKOS associates 29 trade unions with a total of 300,000 members, compared with 33 associations and 600,000 members ten years ago.

Of its 29 unions, the strongest is KOVO, the trade union of metallurgy workers. Besides, the CMKOS includes the school, medical workers and civil servants’ unions.

The ASO, which is the second largest umbrella union associating 13 trade unions with a total 85,000 members, was comprised of 15 trade unions with 250,000 members ten years ago.

It includes the influential doctors and railway workers’ unions.

Stredula said 13,532 people joined the CMKOS’s member unions from mid-2016 to mid-2017, and 97 new trade union branches were established in companies.

The CMKOS saw a total of 26,684 people join it and 202 new branches established in the past two years when it led the Stop Cheap Labour campaign.

“The increase compensated for natural departures. Trade union members usually do no leave out of dissatisfaction, but mostly because they retire,” Stredula said.

He said mainly young and middle-aged people have joined the unions recently, and their numbers indicate that it is “sexy” to be in unions.

Dufek said the ASO lost the largest portion of members in 2000-2004 when strong groups of post-war-born workers retired.

Later, in the period of economic crisis, many employees left unions in order not to have to pay the membership fee. In recent years, however, the decline stopped and young people started to enter unions, Dufek said.

As many as 5,000 newcomers joined the agricultural workers’ union that falls under the ASO, he said.

He said employers have exerted strong counter-pressure for no new union branches to be established at all.

Both Stredula and Dufek said they expect the trade unions’ role to increase.

Stredula said it will increase in connection with the unions’ pressure for pay rises, shorter working hours and changes to work conditions in reaction to the use of robots and digitisation.

Dufek mentioned the economic cycle and the next economic crisis, during which the unions will be protecting their members against being made redundant.

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