Press Advisories

8. 12. 2010 14:46

Statement by Prime Minister Petr Nečas on the public sector strike

I respect the right of every citizen of the Czech Republic to express his or her disagreement by means of demonstrations or strikes. Any cultivated protest by citizens voicing their opinion has my complete understanding.

On the other hand, I fundamentally reject trade-union plans to exploit tomorrow’s public sector strike as an opportunity to demonstrate upcoming government reforms.

In doing so, trade-union leaders have made it quite clear that they are not concerned about ensuring the proper defence of workers’ rights; rather, their goal, in league with the leftist opposition, is to play a political game which could ultimately destabilize our economy and even our country.

The government’s austerity measures are the bare minimum needed to stabilize the national budget for 2011. Without them, next year’s budget would collapse. We cannot and will not retreat from a reduction in public sector wages by 10% because otherwise it would be impossible to approve a credible national budget.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the private sector have taken a pay-cut in recent years. In the second quarter of this year, 84,000 employees of private firms had lost their jobs in the previous twelve months. In the public sector, no one was laid off; in fact, the workforce here rose by 6,000 employees. The widening gap between the incomes of employees in the public and private sectors in favour of public sector workers is untenable. The public sector must also respect the economy.

The electorate gave the coalition government a mandate to steer our country towards competitiveness, balanced budgets and long-term prosperity. We did not receive a mandate to procrastinate until our public finances were in such a state that we had to call in the officials of international institutions to do the job for us, as has happened elsewhere in the EU. If we hold back on major reforms now, we will still be forced to introduce them at some point in the future, by which time they will have to be all the more radical and rapid. Putting it bluntly, we ignore developments in the economy, public finances and demographics in the Czech Republic at our peril. This is why we are advocating reform measures that are as socially sensitive as possible.

The government I am in charge of will not shirk from unpopular action. We will reason with the Czech public and explain how these steps are necessary and proper. We will forge ahead with the preparation and introduction of reforms and with plans to reduce the country’s debt. This was our pledge to the voters and citizens of this country, and we have every intention of honouring it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the overwhelming majority of public sector workers who choose not to join the strike tomorrow. I hold this manifestation of civil responsibility in high regard. We will do all we can to ensure that the public sector, once it has been streamlined, will be able to develop successfully and pave the way for sound conditions for its employees on a bedrock of stable public finances.

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