Thousands of trade union workers protest against government reform plan
Tens of thousands of trade union members took to the streets of Prague on Saturday to protest against the government's planned reform package. The crowd gathered in Prague's Zizkov district and marched to the city's Wenceslas Square, where it declared to the public that the reforms will benefit the rich and harm the middle and lower income classes. Dita Asiedu looks at the workers' reservations and asks whether they are founded:
Whistling and holding banners over 30,000 protesters took to the streets on Saturday to call on the government to revise its reform package. Jiri Schlinger, the head of the association of health and social care trade unions, says lower income citizens will face a heavy financial burden if the government's vast social spending cuts are approved:
So are the reservations of the trade union members founded? Economic analyst David Marek of Patria Finance says reform is necessary but needs a well planned structure to make the transition as painless as possible:
Trade unionists say they have voiced their reservations and the ball is now in the politicians' court. Following the demonstration, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told journalists that his cabinet had no intention of reacting to Saturday's protest. According to Mr Topolanek, all the discussion that is necessary has already been held between the three groups concerned - representatives of the government, trade unions, and employers.
"We have been in discussion with trade unionists on the level of the Council of Economic and Social Cooperation, the so-called tripartite. Trade unions are provided with all the information and documents of these meetings regularly. As far as the demonstration is concerned, I think it will be just like the no-confidence vote last week. In the end, everyone wants our measures - the way they are - to be passed."
The proposed reform package is currently being discussed in the lower house of Parliament, where it has already passed through the first reading. Even though some resistance is expected during the second reading, the coalition government hopes to see the changes in place as of January 2008.