Skoda Auto Unions Declare Strike Alert Over Pay Claims

Unions want 17% pay increase, company offers 7.5%.

Unions at the Czech Republic's biggest car maker, Skoda Auto, declared a strike alert April 4 in pursuit of their claims for higher pay. "The company council at today's meeting decided to declare a strike alert and at the same time intensively make preparations for strike action," Kovo, one of the main unions said.

Management and unions at the Volkswagen Group company failed to agree a new two-year pay and conditions package on April 2 during their eighth round of negotiations. Skoda Auto offered a 7.5% rise in wages from the start of April with a further 2.5% increase next year. Wages would rise 10% over two years with improved fringe benefits resulting in a 12.5% improvement in 2008, the company said. Unions have demanded a 17% increase.

Average workers' wages at Skoda's stood at 22,057 koruna (US$ 1,055) last year, according to the union.

"We want the most important and best company in the Czech Republic to pay its employees a responsible and respectable wage which approaches the minimum level in the EU," the Kovo union said. It added that workers were prepared to launch an unlimited strike to back their claims with support being sought from other Volkswagen plants worldwide.

Skoda Auto boosted 2006 net profits by 40% to reach a record 11.06 billion koruna (US$ 515 million), becoming one of the profit pillars of the Volkswagen group. The company is the biggest Czech exporter, responsible for 7.7% of total sales abroad last year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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