Trade unions leader on privatisation and labour relations

Richard Falbr is the head of the Czech Confederation of Trade Unions a post he plans to resign from next year. Recently Mr Falbr came into the Radio Prague studio for an interview. Among other things he discussed the ongoing privatisation process in the Czech Republic. Under the current Social Democrat government the country's banks have been privatised and the Czech energy utilities are currently being sold off. Mr. Falbr does not support the process.

"Frankly I'm not a friend of privatisation and I'm especially not a friend of privatising public services, public utilities, and I consider these things which are being privatised right now public utilities. I do not agree. We don't organise anything against it because it is very problematic. I am sure that what is more important is the way of management - and the incentives the managers have."

Large scale privatisation has of course taken place in other countries, not all of them former communist states. Richard Falbr believes that the idea of privatising public services is fundamentally flawed.

"If you take the case of privatising the railways in some countries, simply I think that the same as we were stampeded by nationalisation in 1948 when the communists came to power we are now being stampeded by the privatisation slogan - 'what is private is good' - this is not true. If I had the power I would stop the privatisation of these public services. I think the result will be that the prices will be higher and the services will not be better. I have a hostile attitude to privatisation."

So Mr Falbr is hostile to privatization. There is a chance that the new government formed after next June's general elections in the Czech Republic will be hostile to the trade unions. Richard Falbr has had his run-ins with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, though he concedes that the Zeman years may prove to be relatively good ones for his organisation.

"We never had it so good because the only friend of the government were the unions. Any government will not be so friendly. I expect problems in the state sector because we did not solve the problem of collective bargaining in the state sector - it practically does not exist."

So the unions haven't managed to bring about effective collective bargaining. What has been achieved in the last few years? "We have succeeded in building new enterprises. I'm very optimistic."