Prague, Dec 15 (CTK) – The Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) number two man, Milan Chovanec, has called on railway workers to go on strike now that the state-run Czech Railways (CD) company “is being dismantled,” which has met with criticism from the ANO movement responsible for CD, Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote on Thursday.

“We…are launching a war, but who will join us? Where are the unions?” Chovanec, who is interior minister, said at a closed CSSD meeting, alluding to his party’s campaign ahead the autumn 2017 general election.

In the campaign, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s CSSD would welcome support from trade unions, its traditional ally, the paper writes.

“Where are the transport workers’ unions, which should be on strike now that “Czech Railways is being dismantled under their noses?” Chovanec asked, adding that the unions seem to shun conflicts instead of joining the CSSD in its struggle.

The Transport Ministry is headed by Dan Tok, from Finance Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO movement, which is the CSSD’s government partner but also its biggest election rival.

“Mr Chovanec is historically the first minister to call for a strike in a state-run company,” HN quotes Babis as saying.

Tok said he considers Chovanec’s appeal a bad joke and that there is no reason for a strike to be launched by the unions in CD whose management is trying to stabilise the company.

CD has to tackle the rising competition of private railway carriers. Most recently, the rival RegioJet of Radim Jancura won a tender for a free rail on the Prague-Brno line, the paper writes.

Tok said he does not consider private carriers a blow jeopardising CD.

“I do not understand what Mr Chovanec means by CD being dismantled under the employees’ noses,” Tok said.

He said he is not afraid that the unions may obey Chovanec and get radical.

“I think there is no reason to launch a strike based on Mr Chovanec’s wish only,” Tok told the paper.

Supporting Tok, Babis said ANO has succeeded in stopping the previous process of dismantling CD by various “godfathers” and prominent suppliers.

Trade unions feel dismayed at Chovanec’s words. “I warn any politician in the Czech Republic, who tends to provoke strikes that this is dangerous,” said Josef Stredula, head of the CMKOS umbrella union.

Similarly, railway workers’ union head Jaroslav Pejsa said Chovanec’s words surprised him.

Pejsa admitted that the situation of CD is rather bad, but this is to blame on Chovanec and other CSSD leaders, who promised to take over and upgrade the transport sector in case they won the 2013 election, but they did not keep their promise, to a big disappointment of railway workers, HN writes.