Trade Unions threaten to black out the country

The trade unions of energy production and distribution companies went on a strike alert on Monday to support their demands for a more socially sensitive approach to the planned restructuring and privatisation of the energy sector. The Trade Unions have threatened to cut off electricity supplies unless their demands are taken into consideration by the government. Vladimir Tax reports.

The energy production and distribution industry is one of the last sectors that awaits full privatisation. The process has been littered with many controversies concerning the way and pace of the privatisation.

The Trade Unions in energy production and distribution companies went on a strike alert on Monday and say they are ready to go as far as to switch off the national electricity grid and prevent imports of electricity from abroad. The chairman of the strike committee, Jiri Kubicek specified their demands:

"We want the government to guarantee that the privatization and restructuring of our industry will be socially sensitive and in line with European standards," Kubicek said and added that the Trade Unions have been trying to negotiate with the government for the last three years, but without success.

During the process of restructuring the energy industry in other European countries, an average of 30 percent of jobs were lost, in Germany, it was 40 percent. Independent studies indicate that at least two thirds of the employees in the Czech energy sector will lose their jobs, and the Trade Unions estimate that it might be up to 70 percent.

However, according to Mr Kubicek, some foreign companies interested in taking part in the privatization of the Czech energy distribution firms say they could provide the same services with just one tenth of the current number of employees.