Prime Minister Petr Nečas, in a public appearance on Monday, called on
the country’s union leaders to resume negotiations with the government.
He labeled the planned transport strike and road blockades a transgression
into the sphere of politics that the opposition would ultimately benefit
from. While the government was not ready to give up its reforms, coalition
leaders were willing to make certain concessions to the unions, for example
in the area of the retirement age and other elements of the pension reform,
the prime minister said.
The unions have labeled these concessions insufficient and say they are not planning to cancel a nationwide transport strike to take place on Thursday.
The association of trade unions, ČMKOS, and the association of independent unions, ASO, have announced that as well as a nationwide transport strike, they are planning to hold a demonstration in the center of Prague on Thursday. The deputy chairman of the ČMKOS added that some blockades would be held, and that the strike was not directed against the country’s citizens but against its government. Leaders from both union associations called on all unions to support the strike, even if they are not directly participating.
The Transport Ministry may take advantage of Thursday’s nationwide transport strike to repair rails across the country, a spokesperson for the ministry said Monday. Transport Minister Radek Šmerda will be negotiating with the unions on Tuesday to determine whether the ministry may be able to send repair trains onto the rails to take advantage of the standstill in rail traffic. The railway workers’ union joined the transport strike in protest of an earlier retirement age, which is part of a planned pension reform.
Czech President Václav Klaus raised the issue of the looming transport strike at a meeting on Monday with residents in the Plzeň area. The president charged that the unions organizing the strike (which is expected to paralyze public transport in the capital and other major cities and towns on Thursday) were following political aims. The strike is in protest of the government’s planned reforms, which include changes to the health care and pension systems. The president recommended that the government take a far tougher stance, saying that if he were in government or was the mayor of Prague, he would rent private buses across the country to replace public transport. Mr. Klaus was in the Plzeň area to meet with citizens ahead of his upcoming 70th birthday.
On Monday, Petr Blažek, the head of the transport department of the Prague Public Transit Company, reacted to the president’s proposal to substitute private busses for public transportation on Thursday, when a transport strike will hit the capital. He said that the company had already considered this; however, private bus companies did not have the capacity to make up for the standstill of public transportation. He added that this solution was not realistic and that private companies would never have the resources to replace public transportation, especially during peak hours. The mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda, has not yet reacted to President Václav Klaus’s statement.
An independent postal workers’ union, the SOS-21, announced on Monday that their members will be joining the transport workers’ strike on Thursday. SOS-21 members are employees of the postal service’s logistics department. Previously, only the transport department unions of the Czech Postal Service had planned to join the nationwide strike. The biggest union within the Czech Postal Service, which counts some 15,000 members, will not be participating, although its chairman said that his union agreed with the organizers. With 36,000 employees, the Czech Postal Service is the nation’s biggest employer.
In an interview for the newspaper Financial Times, Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that now was not a good time for the Czech Republic to adopt the euro. Among the reasons he cited were the uncertain future of the currency and the fact that three of the 17 eurozone countries have had to apply for financial aid from the European Union. However, all twelve countries that became EU members in 2004, the Czech Republic among them, are obligated to eventually adopt the union’s common currency. Among the newer member states, Romania seems the most likely candidate for timely euro adoption by 2015. In Poland, the original euro adoption deadline of 2012 will not be met. It appears likely that the country may not adopt the euro until the end of this decade.
According to data published by the Czech Statistical Office on Monday, the population of the Czech Republic grew by 3,000 to 10,535 million people in the first quarter of 2011. Immigration played a great role in this growth: some 3,800 people moved to the Czech Republic in this period, 1,600 more than in the same period of the previous year. In the first three months of this year, 26,700 children were born, while 27,400 residents of the Czech Republic passed away. Compared to the same period of the previous year, both numbers have dropped. Moreover, 3,200 Czechs got married in the first quarter of 2011, while the number of divorces dropped by 1,300 as compared to the same period last year.
Another 81 cobblestones honoring Holocaust victims will be added to Prague’s Zborovská Street as part of an international project organized by the German artist Gunter Demnig. Monday’s installation of new cobblestones is the second round of the project in Prague; the artist first added his stones to streets of cities across the Czech Republic in 2008.Under the title “Stolpersteine,” German for “stumbling blocks,” Mr. Demnig added such stones, bearing the name, birth date and date of deportation of the victim, to cities across Europe. A total of 23,000 of them have been installed to date. The project was inspired by a line from the Talmud: “One is not truly dead until one’s name is forgotten.”
A roof of the car factory of Škoda Auto in the Central Bohemian city of Mladá Boleslav caught on fire on Monday. The fire caused damages of about 1.5 million Czech crowns. Thanks to the speedy reaction of local firefighters, further damages of 300 million crowns were avoided. Police are investigating the case.
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