30000-workers Czech transport unions plan strike

Czech transport unions plan an indefinite strike in the next few days to demand the government drops plans to axe employee benefits, said officials.

30000-workers Czech transport unions plan strike

Czech transport unions representing 30,000 workers plan an indefinite strike in the next few days to demand the government drops plans to axe employee benefits, union officials said on Monday.

The planned action would disrupt train and bus services in the central European country of 10.4 million which took over the European Union's six-month rotating presidency on Jan. 1.

"The strike could cripple the whole country," said Jana Kasparova, the unions' spokeswoman.

Strikes are rare in the Czech Republic.

The unions said they would announce the exact date for the strike once details were finalised.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's minority centre-right government is trying to push through reforms simplifying the tax system by cancelling numerous tax exemptions and benefits implemented in the past.

Trade unionists said talks with the government -- which has slashed direct income tax, mainly for high earners -- have failed because the cabinet has refused to abandon plans to cancel benefits such as lunch tokens and free rail passes.

A Finance Ministry spokesman said the ministry was disappointed with the trade unions' stance, but would still submit their proposals to the cabinet.

"It is impossible ... not to discuss the changes," Jakub Haas said.

Topolanek plans to reshuffle his cabinet in a bid to regain voters' trust after his right-wing Civic Democrats were trounced in a regional election in October.

His three-party coalition has been suffering from defections that have narrowed its ranks in the lower house to 96 seats of the 200 exposing it to opposition sniping and reducing its power to push through legislation.

Reuters
Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2009, 11:08
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