Wages in civil sector to grow

At school

In a month's time, 800 000 Czech doctors, nurses, policemen, primary school teachers and state office workers will be better off. The Czech government approved an 11-percent rise of salaries in the public sector on Monday. Pavla Horakova has the details.

At school
The rise was originally expected in January this year, but the government then postponed it until April. After negotiations with the trade unions the compromise March date was finally set. In return, the trade unions promised to accept the government's plans as regards the number of public sector employees. The vice-chairman of the Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions Milan Stech welcomes the compromise and says it is the best result the trade unions could have reached in the negotiations, taking into account the development of inflation and unemployment. But Mr Stech is far from happy with the large discrepancy between wages in the public and commercial sector.

"I don't think the situation is good. Already in 1994 we agreed in the tripartite that the difference should be about 5 percent - that means the commercial sector should be only 5 percent ahead of the public sector. I think it is necessary to increase wages in the public sector if we are to keep and motivate qualified workers."

In the commercial sector, the average monthly wage is around 14 thousand crowns, or 450 euros, the average income in the public sector is about one third lower. As of March, doctors, nurses, policemen, primary school teachers, clergymen and state office workers will get between one and two thousand crowns more every month. There seems to be a catch though. The state budget had allocated money for a rise later - in April. That means some schools and hospitals might not find the extra money in their budgets for the rise of the fixed part of the salaries. They have to look for it elsewhere and some say they might have to cut down the variable part of the salaries. That would leave the employees with exactly the same wage as before the rise. What does Milan Stech think of that?

"Hospitals are in a different situation. They are financed from health insurance. The increase there is even higher. Beside the 11-percent rise there is another 7 percent on which medical trade unions agreed with the Health Ministry and health insurance companies. Therefore with the 18-percent rise there, the variable part of the salary could be affected. As for schools, I don't think the variable part of the salary will be affected. The money will be provided from state resources and I don't think the difference of one month plays a significant role. I think it is irresponsible and misleading if the schools say they can't find money for the rise because it has come a month earlier."

The latest pay rise in the public sector is definitely welcome as another step to level out the huge difference between salaries in the state and commercial spheres. However, it seems that it will take much more time to improve the current situation, when experts in the public sector are seriously underpaid.