Czechs go on strike against reforms
Hospitals and polyclinics, schools and kindergartens, trains and trams – these are some of the services Czechs had to do without for an hour on Tuesday. Between 1 and 2 pm, the Czech Republic saw a nation-wide strike against the government’s public finance reforms, one of the biggest protests in the country since the fall of communism.
“The strike has been in progress since 8 AM; this is an accompanying event when we perform some small clinical tests – we are taking people’s blood pressure. But in contrast to normal days, when patients pay 30 crowns to visit a doctor, today we pay our patients 30 julineks.”
But what do the visitors themselves think of the protest action?
“I agree with the strike because my daughter works in the intensive care unit at a hospital. I know what it involves and all the things she has to do, and what she gets in return.”
“I don’t support it; I don’t like it at all. I think it is absolutely pointless.”
The hospital website says that only two percent of the staff joined in the strike. However, elsewhere in the country, the numbers have been much higher. Besides hospitals, some Czech cities and towns saw public transport and even trains stop for the hour between 1 and 2 pm, while in Prague, protesters blocked a major artery in the city centre. The protest has been organized by the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Labour Unions, whose deputy chairman Zdeněk Málek hopes the strike will force the government to negotiate with critics of the reforms.
On Wednesday, an estimated 900,000 people have taken part in the largest protest the country has seen since 1989. The umbrella labour union organisation says if ministers refuse to listen and hold further talks about the public finance reforms they won’t go down without a fight.