Czech unions strike


Health Unions Declare Strike Alert Over Pay

Prague, Aug 17 (CTK) – The Czech health and social care trade unions declared strike alert today as they want the government to meet its promise to raise salaries in the sector by 10 percent across the board, the union leaders have told reporters.


Health Minister Adam Vojtech (for ANO) told CTK on Tuesday that he did not agree with the unions’ decision.


The salaries in the health care sector have increased by 30 percent in the past five years, he said.


“The reasons for declaring the strike alert are the unsuccessful ongoing talks on the rise in salaries and the unfulfilled promises given to us previously. The personnel crisis has been deepening and it threatens even the extent and quality of the provided care,” the unions said in their press release distributed at the morning press conference.


The union chairwoman Dagmar Zitnikova said the unions would also call on hospital staff to start strictly observing the overtime work limits as set by the Labour Code.


Furthermore, the health union wants to send labour inspectors to hospitals to check the observance of the overtime work limits and the limits set for lifting heavy burdens.


“A patient weighing 100 kg should not be lifted by a single nurse but by six of them,” Zitnikova said.


The government plans to raise the health care personnel’s pay by some 4-5 percent only.


The health trade union sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO), asking him to secure money for a 10 percent rise in the base pay of both medical and other professions in the health sector.


It its letter, the union mentions the 10-percent increase promised to it by the former cabinet of ANO, the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) in 2016, and also its negotiations with Babis and Vojtech this May, after which the union announced that Vojtech had promised the 10-percent pay rise to it.


Vojtech, nevertheless, said he only expressed support for the union’s effort but did not promise 10 percent to them.


Zitnikova pointed out the problem of a considerable gap of up to 58 percent between the wages in state-subsidised hospitals and those operating as business companies.


“The negotiations are uneasy in business companies. In some of them, they used the money [designed for wages] for other purposes than wages. In some hospitals, the staff even went on strike alert due to this,” said Ivana Brenkova, the health care union deputy chairwoman.


According to the data of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, the health sector employed over 260,000 people by the end of last year. There were 80,000 nurses, 18,000 emergency staff and about 40,000 doctors.


In all, there were over 45,000 blue-collar workers and technical personnel in the health care.


In 2017, the average gross salary of nurses was 36,000 crowns a month in state-run facilities, but 24,200 in non-state facilities.


Czech hospitals are short of around 3000 nurses.


Social services employ around 100,000 people who have the average salary of 28,600 crowns a month, 13 percent more than a year ago.