Trade Unions Warn of Strikes Over Austerity Budget
Representatives of the government, unions and employers, known as the Tripartite Council, debated the package yesterday afternoon. Photo credit: Freepik.
Prague, May 16 (CTK) – Czech trade unions have declared a strike alert with immediate effect over the government’s budget consolidation package, said Josef Stredula, chairman of the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (CMKOS), after the unions’ meeting yesterday.
Stredula said the situation was serious, and criticised the government for not leading a genuine social dialogue with the unions. He said the main impact of the measures would fall on workers, their families and pensioners.
Representatives of the government, unions and employers, known as the Tripartite Council, debated the package yesterday afternoon. After the nearly four-hour meeting, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) described the strike alert as irresponsible, adding that such pressure is not part of dialogue, and that the government is not ready to withdraw its proposals.
Chamber of Commerce President Vladimir Dlouhy criticised the trade unions’ declaration, saying he could not understand the strike alert as everyone has to tighten their belts to consolidate the public finances. He described the government’s proposals as necessary, but said he would demand that any measure affecting businesses be compensated by relief elsewhere, such as reducing the administrative burden.
The unions plan to announce the specific impact of the austerity measures on families at a press conference this morning. Stredula said this would be over CZK 100,000 a year.
Fiala rejected the trade unions’ criticism on Sunday, saying that his cabinet is engaged in constant dialogue with employees’ representatives. “There have been many meetings, it is not as if the Tripartite Council did not know that we had to save money,” he said.
The unions now intend to follow the situation “day by day”. Stredula called on the independent union associations to cooperate, describing the strike alert as the most moderate measure among the unions’ options. He said that the last time a strike alert had been declared was ten years ago.
Union members had previously expressed concerns about lower wages, possible price increases following the VAT adjustment, the introduction of sickness insurance payments, and the raising of the retirement age.
Within the austerity package, the government also plans to raise corporation tax, excise tax on tobacco and alcohol, and gambling and property taxes. It will re-introduce sickness insurance for employees and raise social insurance payments for sole traders and the self-employed. Value-added tax is to have two rates instead of the current three, and 22 tax exemptions will be abolished. However, the government says its main aim is to reduce the public deficit through savings, especially by cutting state subsidies.
Along with the austerity consolidation package, the government presented its plans for pension reform, which include a rise in the retirement age, guaranteed pensions, lower pension indexation, and adjustments to rules on early retirement.