As part of a campaign for improved pay and conditions, workers at Skoda Auto, the Czech Republic's biggest car maker, went on strike on April 17, the Czech press agency CTK reported. Workers gave the strike "almost total support" one union official, Vladimir Kment, said.
But in spite of previous union predictions that all production would be halted by the action, Kment said that "a few hundred" cars would be produced at the Volkswagen Group company during the day. Skoda Auto's average daily production is around 2,500 vehicles.
Talks on April 16 failed to break the deadlock over a management offer of 10% base salary increases and other bonuses amounting to a rise of 13% over the period of April 2007 to April 2009. Unions rejected this offer last week. After they announced their intention to strike, management reduced the proposed 10% raises to 7.5%.
Based in Mlada Boleslav, about 35 miles northeast of Prague, Skoda Auto employs 26,000 people. Josef Stredula, head of Kovo, the main union at SkodaKovo says around 18,000 are its members.
The company earned record net profits of 11.06 billion koruna (US$530 million) last year, an increase of 40% over the previous year. It is the Czech Republic's largest exporter, responsible for 7.7% of total sales abroad last year and an estimated 2%-3% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Last week, Czech President Vaclav Klaus called on company managers not to "raise wages too much. As an economist, I cannot underestimate the signal that a pay deal at Skoda Auto will have for the rest of the economy."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007