Czech Workers to Strike over Health Sector Reforms

Reforms amount to wage cuts says union.

Czech health and public sector workers are to stage a one-hour strike this week in protest at reforms which a leading union spokeswoman said June 22 effectively amount to wage cuts. "The unions fully understand the need to put public finances in order and we don't want the state to take on fresh debt, but unfortunately this reform does not solve the problem," said Jana Kasparova of CMKOS union.

The Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions represents 540,000 members, and has called for the stoppage between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm (1100 and 1200 GMT) on June 24.

The body accuses Czech premier Mirek Topolanek of having adopted measures which lead to a reduction in salaries in real terms, with Kasparova saying pensions will fall to 30% of the average salary.

As many as 15 other unions are set to back the strike call over Health Minister Tomas Julinek's package of laws due to come into force in 2009, which include privatizing public health insurance and university hospitals. They are already up in arms over a series of new charges for doctors' consultations and hospital stays decided last year by Topolanek's government as part of efforts to curb a public sector deficit.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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