Massive union strikes sweep Czechia today: Hundreds of thousands to protest

Unions from the automotive, healthcare, education and other sectors will rally in Prague and other Czech cities to voice discord about pay and income.


Written by ČTK Published on 27.11.2023 10:23:00 (updated on 27.11.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Mass protests and strikes organized by several trade unions across the Czech Republic begin today as hundreds of thousands are expected to voice discord with the government. The demonstrations are in response to inadequate pay, the rising cost of living, and the government's handling of economic policies.

Encompassing multiple sectors

The Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions and Association of Independent Trade Unions (ASO), collectively representing over 380,000 workers, organized the widespread industrial action. Ten unions representing sectors like education, manufacturing, transport, and healthcare joined the call for strikes. 

School union heads estimate approximately 70 percent of schools will see staff walkouts today. Automaker Škoda Auto will also halt production for two hours at its plants. Symbolic protests were planned by transport unions through actions like bus drivers wearing safety vests. ČMKOS chief Josef Středula says widescale disruptions can be expected through more protests until the government takes concrete action, such as by increasing pay.

Demonstrators are expected to congregate at multiple points in Prague, including Malostranské náměstí, Jungmannovo náměstí, and náměstí Jana Palacha on Monday afternoon. Trade unionists and their supporters will also gather at the upper part of Wenceslas Square.

Pavel Bednar, chairman of the Union of State Bodies and Organisations, said employees of some labor and social administration offices planned to strike all day and in some offices, and a one-hour token strike would be held around noon.

Disputes over pay and austerity package

Unions demand higher wages to offset inflation, which has substantially increased energy and living costs. Specifically, they seek improved compensation for public sector employees and changes to pension reforms. While Labour Minister Marian Jurečka stated the cabinet was negotiating, Prime Minister Petr Fiala deemed the protests unjustified.

A survey found around two-thirds of Czechs support the unions' objectives, though most will not strike. Jurecka canceled an international trip to meet with union representatives, signaling potential concessions. However, unions insist on adjustments to base wages rather than temporary bonuses as offered.

The mass demonstrations illustrate the financial strain on a significant proportion of workers nationwide. How the government navigates public sector pay and benefits will impact its relationship with organized labor moving forward. As negotiations continue, the stability of the Czech labor force hangs in the balance.

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