Unions Pressure Cabinet To Negotiate Pay Increase By End Of August

Alena Schillerova

Prague, Aug 10 (CTK) – Czech trade unions want the date of their next talks with the cabinet on wages in the public sector to be set so that the talks are closed this month, defining the extent and timing of civil servants’ pay increase, Deputy PM Jan Hamacek and CMKOS umbrella union head Josef Stredula said today.


The unions demand a 10-percent pay increase.


The Social Democrats (CSSD) will be pushing in the government for the pay increase to maximally comply with the unions’ demand, Hamacek, the CSSD chairman, told journalists after meeting Stredula.


Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) wrote to CTK that the trade unions have not addressed him with a request for a meeting so far.


The government, in which the CSSD’s senior partner is the ANO movement, has proposed to increase the state spending on wages in the public sector by 6 percent as of next year. The wages of teachers and the worst-paid professions would increase the most steeply of all.


In July, the unions and the cabinet agreed that a definitive decision might be made in mid-August, but no date of negotiations has been set as yet.


“The 2019 budget bill must be submitted to parliament by September 30. We would like the agreement on the pay increase to be struck by the end of August,” Stredula said.


If the cabinet shunned unions with their demands, the public could get annoyed ahead of the October local and Senate elections, which would be unfortunate, he said.


PM Babis and Finance Minister Alena Schillerova (for ANO) agreed at a recent meeting with President Milos Zeman that a 10-percent pay increase would be inappropriately high.


Entrepreneurs, too, criticise the demand for a 10-percent pay increase in the public sector, which, they say, does not correspond to the expected growth of the state revenues.


The junior government CSSD, for its part, sides with the unions and will do its utmost to promote their demands, Hamacek said today.


He said a higher sum for the union-proposed pay increase can be acquired by reducing the number of public sector employees. Each ministry should consider reducing their staff on its own. “We do not consider across-the-board cancellation of jobs optimal,” Hamacek said.


Over 634,700 people worked in civil service last year, their average gross salary reaching 31,968 crowns.


The unions first asked the cabinet to start negotiating about the pay rise in mid-March, complaining of Babis turning a blind eye on them.


In June, they threatened with protests.


The first meeting of the government and union representatives took place on June 19 and another one in July.