Court bans Monday transport strike, so unions plan a bigger one for Thursday

Los líderes sindicalistas, foto: ČTK

A nationwide transport strike planned for Monday was averted when a Prague court ruled that the trade unions had not announced the protest sufficiently ahead of time. The transport unions, which are opposing government reforms, have now rescheduled the strike for Thursday, June 16. While they have lifted an unpopular call to block roads and highways, Thursday’s strike will be even longer than originally planned, from midnight to midnight, and may extend to other professions, such as teachers and businessmen. Earlier today we talked about the situation with political analyst Jiří Pehe, and asked if he believes the court's decision was indeed a mere political move, as the unions have charged.

Photo: European Commission
“I think that the court decision needs to be seen on two levels. It seems that on the one hand, the court didn’t really rule on the issue itself, because the kind of strike that the trade unions declared doesn’t need to be announced three days in advance, and that is what the court rule. On the other hand, it is a court ruling, and the Czech Republic, as a law-abiding country, needs to respect such a ruling, and I think it was wise on the part of the trade unions to simply say ‘ok, we don’t agree with this, and on top of that we think this decision is at least partly political, but we will abide by it and simply postpone our strike.’”

Why exactly would this strike not have to be declared at least three working days ahead of time?

The transport unions' leaders, photo: CTK
“Well because that only concerns strikes that stem from collective negotiations. If there is a failure in negotiations between employers and trade unions then a strike needs to be declared at least three days in advance. The situation here is a public protect, and it seems it wouldn’t have to be declared three days in advance. On the other hand I think that this is a very thin line to walk, and therefore it was wise on the part of the unions not to challenge this and simply say, ‘ok, the strike won’t be held on Monday it will be held on Thursday.’”

Both sides – the government and the unions – have said that the other is unwilling to negotiate; do you see some way out of this situation?

“I think the way out is simple: the government should simply say ‘yes, our opinion is that we have negotiated, but if the trade unions think that we have not negotiated enough, why don’t we just sit down and go over the government reforms and the proposals by the trade unions’ – because the trade unions have their own proposals and alternatives – and that would probably defuse some of the tension and moreover it would also, in my opinion, make claims by the unions for future strikes less plausible. But the government simply maintains that it has done enough. And unfortunately for the government, that doesn’t seem to be case where public opinion is concerned; it seems that the public is on the side of the trade unions and believes that the government is not discussing its reforms and is not really conciliatory enough.”