Czech Unions Launch Largest Strike Against Government's "Harsh Economy"
The Czech Republic is experiencing one of the largest protests in its history since gaining independence. The strike involves educational institutions and companies protesting against cost cuts and tax increases. The government claims it is trying to restrain the budget deficit.
This was reported by Bloomberg.
As a sign of protest, approximately 74% or more than seven thousand kindergartens and schools across the country suspended their work today. Workers at the industrial giant Skoda's plant laid down their tools for several hours, and thousands of people took to the historic streets of the Czech capital, Prague, for an anti-government rally.
The protests were triggered by a new package of cost-cutting measures and tax increases of $6.7 billion recently presented by the Czech government. People are also expressing displeasure with the increase in the retirement age, budget cuts, especially in education, the lack of salary increases in the public sector, and the rising cost of utilities.
Among the measures approved by the Czech Parliament last week is also an increase in taxes on alcoholic beverages, including beer, and medicines.
"The goal of the strike is to make the government of the republic think about what is happening in society. If they think that they can brush off such an action, not notice it, then in that case, the mood in society may become even worse," said Josef Středula, the head of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions.
At the same time, according to officials, the government's new proposal aims to reduce the budget deficit within two years. It is also believed that such an unpopular step is intended to stop the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has already criticized the protesters for refusing negotiations, stating that he is "always ready to act, but not under pressure, not in this atmosphere."
"When the trade unions want to return to negotiations, and the negotiations are constructive, not under pressure and the threat of further protests, we will certainly be ready to act," Fiala added.
Unions state their intention to continue their protest if the government refuses to accept their demands.
It is worth noting that government austerity measures have been positively received by investors. This year, the price of Czech bonds surpassed most European counterparts.