June 24th 2008: a strike that gave the workers little and didn't harm the bosses (II. KPK Bulletin)

A brief presentation of a strike led by trade unions in the Czech Republic in 2008.

Class struggle is a part of capitalism. If we compare class struggle to a real state of war, we commit, of course, a certain oversimplification. But it makes all the more evident that contention does not only mean open confrontations of armies on the front line: it also entails terrain recognition, mapping the enemy's weak and strong points, as well as those of one's own army.

Reconnaissance of a specific class terrain and investigation of the power balance between proletariat and capital is therefore an essential part of communist activity.

Because strike as an open expression of class struggle is part of conventional arms of our class, we simply cannot ignore July 24th 2008. According to the unions, on that day, the biggest strike in Czech Republic since November 1989 took place. Allegedly, almost a million workers participated.

In the Czech Republic (CR), there are a total of 4 161 000 employees, of which about 1 275 000 are organized in unions. The most numerous is the ČMKOS confederation (about 900 000 members in 32 unions), which declared an “All-confederation one-hour warning strike”. This was the climax of protests against planned reforms, which entail above all the public financing reform, pension reform, deregulation of rent, transformation of health insurance institutions and university hospitals into joint-stock companies... (See appendix I) According to the declaration, the ČMKOS agrees with the necessity of reforms, economical as well as social, but they differ on the content of the reforms (for example, the confederation prepared their own amendments to the new law on pension insurance). It is worth noting that this union confederation is closely tied to the most powerful oppositional party, ČSSD (Czech Social-Democratic Party). Chairman of the ČMKOS Štěch is also a social-democratic senator.

Other unions decided to participate in the strike, particularly the second most numerous – Assocation of Independent Unions (whose members include the Doctors Union Club) or the Engine-drivers Federation, which traditionally tries to take a harder stance and tends to act as a solitaire.

Before the strike, there had been a month of union actions. The most interesting and massive action took place on June 9th 2008: it was a strike in education for wage demands, with 130 thousand people stopping work. (Half of the schools participated in the strike; we also know about a few schools that agreed with the goals of the strike, but refused to participate in a “too soft”=short strike and demanded a longer one.)

The hour-long strike itself took place on June 24th 2008 – and according to the unions, 985 000 employees were involved.

While it may seem impressive that this was a national action targeted against the government, this “generalization” of the “struggle” can help the unions in covering their own weaknesses in the particular sectors and workplaces. And the “political goal” (in which the unions can rely on the power of the oppositional social democracy) can cover up the low weight of the unions in questions of wages and working conditions in the individual workplaces. (A small hint of union power and the benefits they bring to workers: last year, at workplaces falling within collective bargaining, the unions managed to negotiate... real wage decrease of 1,3 % in average! See appendix II)

Besides, only 306 000 workers really struck (stopped work), the rest of “participants” supported the strike only symbolically, by stickers, leaflets, petitions.

What is the reason of this poor participation? Several reasons have to be considered, and it is difficult to pick out the dominant one; more likely, it is a combination of all.

* Unions in CR are not a living organism rooted among the workers. At times they are not even able to organize their own members. (In some workplaces, as in the biggest Czech hospital, Motol in Prague, unions were not even able to inform about the strike through leaflets.) This actually applies to the factories, too, and especially new ones: unions brought only very little to the workers and their power (in mobilizing the workers by promising achievements that the struggle will bring about) is relatively small.
* The most common argument for a symbolic “strike”, not only in industrial sectors, was the claim that a full-blown strike would harm the employers, while not being targeted against them. Such was the situation in, for example, the company Sklo Bohemia with 1200 employees. The strike was also mostly symbolical in mining and in the biggest steel works Arcelor Mittal Ostrava. A similar situation reigned in the car factory TPCA, where work was not stopped either.
* A symbolic “strike” was not always the result of a conscious decision by union foremen. We know of, for example, the case of the hospital in Chomutov, where nurses and doctors posted a note on their door saying: “We agree with the strike. We are working only because of our organizational inability.” (The message of this amusing and honest statement should not be overestimated, but we can say that it has something to do with the general state of our class in CR: the working class does not have experience in organizing itself.)
* In many workplaces workers were not interested in the strike, because they simply did not believe in its effectiveness, they did not believe that a one-hour union protest could change something.
* In some places, lack of interest and passivity simply turned the scale: some did not know about the strike and reforms at all.
* Pressure by the bosses played its part, too. In the Andrew plant in Brno, the company threatened that strikers would lose a 3000 Kč (about 120 euros) bonus for full attendance, because the strike would mean an hour of absence. (The unions then disputed the company's right to do that.)
* The question is, to what extent were the goals of the strike related to workers' everyday problems. There is no point in discussing the impact of prolongation of the time that the working class will have to spend at work: the proposed reform is against the workers. Their interest within the wage system is, to put it without any hypocrisy, to let themselves being exploited the least, for the shortest time possible – and for the most money possible. But today, workers are most concerned with inflation, low wages and price increases – that is the sensitive thing at the given moment.

WHERE WAS THE STRIKE?

Who participated in the strike, then? After an agreement with the management, workers struck in the plants of Škoda Auto in Mladá Boleslav and Vrchlabí (the one-hour stoppage meant a drop out of about a hundred cars). The strike took place in Wikow Gear (a former part of Škoda in Pilsen); in the FAB branch in Rychnov; 200 employees of a total of 550 stopped work for an hour in Královopolská in Brno. Three hundred miners struck for an hour in OKD in Ostrava, in the Centrum mine in Mostecká uhelná společnost and in Severočeské doly in the Bílina mine.

As for the health sector, where the one-hour strike had first been announced (and then supported by ČMKOS by its all-confederation strike), allegedly about 30-thousand people struck, though the manner of participation was very varied: many workplaces operated in a weekend mode (i.e. full-scale acute care, but planned operations and investigations were postponed or diminished; offices closed down; and a symbolical protest elsewhere). In Prague, unions indicate that half of the university hospital clinics struck and other workplaces supported them, while according to the hospital directors, only 5% percent of employees were on strike. (In the university hospital Vinohrady, 7 clinics participated from a total of 37, 2% of employees struck, 60 out of 2700 employees attended the union meeting; in the university hospital Bulovka, 11% were on strike etc.)

Some public administration offices were also on strike, as was the philharmonic in Pardubice.

Protest actions afflicted transport. In many cities, especially in Brno, public transport was defunct, but it could not be disrupted in other places. (The public transport companies managed to substitute for the lines by dispatching special vehicles, or by bringing scabs to the stopped lines). In Prague, for example, the strike was hardly noticeable in public transport. A slightly different situation was on the railways, where protest was strongest. Although almost all of the international lines were operational, about 1000 trains were stopped on Czech territory. The whole action was organized by Engine-drivers Federation – the biggest railway union (OSŽ) decided not to participate in the strike after discussions with the government.

Moreover, the Engine-drivers Federation linked the strike to its own demands, and the strike was therefore prolonged by 15 minutes. In the framework of this strike, this was an extraordinary step: only the medical workers from the traumatological hospital in Brno (who have been fighting for some time against subsumption into the university hospital Fakultní nemocnice u svaté Anny) and castellans (low salaries and funds for maintenance) have projected their own problems onto the strike, while Prague taxi-drivers from the Taxi Praha association incorporated their own demands into the strike. Elsewhere the workers did not attempt to use the strike as a space to formulate their own demands.

WHAT WOULD AN ATTEMPT AT A SOBER EVALUATION OF THE STRIKE LOOK LIKE?

The strike was organized by unions, so that it would a) give the workers as little as possible; and, at the same time b) harm the employers as little as possible.

That is a very important point.

a) The workers can benefit above all from an action that will open up the space for a debate about their own status, their own demands and methods of struggle. From an action that will remind us that workplaces do not have to be just places where we are defenseless victims of norms, regulations, supervisors and managers. They can also be places where we can collectively challenge all that. How offensive and successful our struggle against the bosses and the dictate of economy will be, depends on the question if we as the working class become an independent, autonomous political force: that does not mean anything else but to rid ourselves of illusions and come to understand that our interests are class interests, and then fight for them egoistically (without any regard to the economy, the wishes of politicians and capitalist plans). And realize that our final goal must be to destroy capitalism, because in capitalism, all our victories are partial and uncertain – for every concession we force onto capital, capital in turn takes something from us somewhere else.

Was the strike a step in this direction? Did it offer a space for workers discussion, for a debate about the strike in other workplaces and about the reasons that in some workplaces, there is no strike? For an evaluation of the protests so far? For a discussion on what makes workers in this or that particular workplace upset? For a debate on how to assert our interests more effectively? Did it offer a space for the first steps in self-organization in the struggle for our interests?

No. The strike with predetermined roles, staffed with trained union speakers and a mob, passively chanting union slogans, was nothing like that. (Presuming that those assemblies actually took place and the strikers did not spend the one-hour strike isolated in their workplaces without gathering at a collective protest at all...) Not to mention the fact that preparatory assemblies, where the workers could discuss the strike and the general situation, were not a part of the union plan at all – as a union offical in the biggest Czech hospital in Prague, Motol, told one a nurse: “I don't like these ideological debates.” It is more than clear what he meant – and it was not a critique of ideology: he does not like it when workers themselves discuss and decide how to confront their own problems. But that is exactly what we like.

As for the criteria for evaluating workers actions: of course, the question whether they led to the fulfillment of their demands must not be the only thing we take into consideration (and the June strike did not achieve that). Bosses will always try to take away from us everything we achieve, only elsewhere. Thus, all the skirmishes and battles are parts of general class struggle: therefore, the evaluation of working-class actions must be based, above all, on whether the experience of the struggle will enhance the capacity of the class to resist the general domination of capital; whether it strengthens the class; whether it will allow workers experience their collective power; whether it pushes the class towards a political critique of the conditions in which we are forced to live as wage laborers.

Whether workers actions represent a step towards the formation of a strong and politically autonomous class that we will be able to cope with the capitalist mode of production itself.

Of course, in the Czech Republic, our class is so fragmented and defeated that talking about a politically independent class sounds like science-fiction. And of course, no one thinks that one action could change that.

But was the strike at least a small step in this direction?

Did the June strike enable us to experience the collective power we can develop against the bosses? Did we feel stronger and more united during the strike than in normal working conditions? Did it encourage us, showed us, that we do not have to be a rag on the stick of managers and politicians? Did we come out of it enriched by the experience of active self-organization from below? Did it show our co-workers in the factory or in the office that there is an immense abyss between the interests of capital and the interests of workers?

Everyone shall answer these questions for themselves. Our summary of the answers would be that the strike gave the workers none of that. Not by coincidence: to expect that the unions (active guardians of social peace and partners of the employers) would facilitate workers self-organization and enable our class to find its own, independent political positions, would be an illusion.

b) How threatening was the strike for the government? As everyone probably knows, in order for a strike to be a significant threat, it has to cause damage to the economy (read: the employers' profits). A strike must hurt – hurt the bosses. “One-hour warning strike”, which in most cases was not a strike at all, touched the economy only minimally, which even the economic experts did not deny. Workplaces with union stickers posted all over are, of course, not a “warning” at all. Warnings are workplaces which stop working and in which an activity takes place that makes the workers – until now organized only by the work process – become a collective, organized by its own class needs for which it is struggling.

No wonder that the ruling class was not scared by the strike and the unions could not achieve anything. The proposals for health reform were frozen (because of some internal problems of the coalition, not because of union protests) before the strike began. What sort of an argument the strike was, is hinted at by the fact that the retirement bill – which was one of the reforms that the unions wanted to stop – was smoothly approved by the chamber of deputies on the second day after the strike.

However, the strike was not only about the workers and the ruling class. Unions undoubtedly also fought for their own credit among workers. What can we say about the strike regarding this point?

Certainly union bosses themselves saw the strike as a kind of a test: “The strike gave us a lot of important information on the situation inside the unions,” they wrote on July 8th, evaluating the union protests.

The results of this “test” were surely expected impatiently by the unions: until June 10th, an internal report of OS KOVO states, “only 114 union locals of a total of 721 made their stance to the strike known.” Only 35 locals decided to go on strike, 9 were against and 70 declared that they will express support.

And how did the unions assess the strike after it had happened? Publicly, they lavish the praise of a “successful” action – but what discussions are taking place in the gloomy offices of union bureaucrats? It is difficult to say whether union leaders were tearing their hair over the lack of influence among the workers. We can certainly say, though, that they would be much closer to doing that if it was not for the engine-drivers action, which is the only one that really hurt, a few factories like Škoda, and the short, spectacular, meek but at least visible blocking of a crossroads in Prague by farmers.

The union action certainly was not too impressive. The insignificant control/power of the unions over workers is one of the basic features of the current class reality around us. The other feature is the still low mobilization of our class. So far, workers were not able to use the current economic cycle, which brought about lower competition on the labor market, for their own benefit. (Actually, they entered the cycle without previous experience in waging struggles. For example, the ILO does not even consider keeping statistics about workdays lost to strikes in the CR worth the effort – that sort of country Czech Republic is.) So, for now, unions do not – unfortunately – find in the proletariat an agent whose activities have to be pacified.

Kolektivně proti kapitálu (Collectively Against Capital), 12th September 2008
protikapitalu.org
kpk@protikapitalu.org

APPENDIX I – OVERVIEW OF THE REFORMS

AREA: Pensions (three stages)
Description: The first stage comprises of a law which redefines retirement age
(men, women without children, women with 1 child: 65
women with 2 children: 64
women with 3 children: 63
women with 4 children: 62
The privilege of women with children may be later readjusted until June 30th 2009. This system will be fully put into practice from 2030; until then, its transitory stage will apply)

and other parameters of the pension system (extension of the compulsory minimal time of social insurance payments from 25 to 35 years).
Status: Approved first by the house of representatives, then, a day after the general strike, by the senate as well. The President's approving signature is expected.
(Will become valid next year.)

Description: The second stage of the pension reform focuses on financing, adjusts the status of funds and enhanced pension insurance.
The law should motivate both employees and employers to enhanced insurance. Companies sponsoring their employees enhanced insurance should get a significant tax relief, increased from the current 24 000 CZK (960 EUR) up to 32 000 (1280 EUR) or even 36 000 CZK (1440 EUR).
According to the planned law, the funds should be transformed to pension companies. These should offer more possibilities of saving. The second stage of the reform counts with the dissociation of the shareholders' and the clients' money. This way, the clients' money would not be threatened in case of bankruptcy.

Status: To be discussed next year in the house of representatives.

Description: The third stage includes the possibility of redirecting a part of payments from the state-run system to the funds. (Not approved as of now.)
Status: Tied to the previous stage.

AREA: Health care
Description:
Introduction of regulatory fees.
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008

Description: Transformation of teaching hospitals into joint-stock companies.
Status: Postponed

Description: Transformation of public health insurance companies into joint-stock companies.
Status: Postponed

Description: Public health insurance bill (different kinds of insurance).
Status: Postponed

AREA: Taxes
Description:
Increase in the lower rate of VAT from 5% to 9% (including groceries!)
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008

Description: Flat tax for individuals and entrepreneurs: 15% (but of gross income, which in real terms means 20.25%, compared to the previous 12 – 32 %)
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008 (the rate is to be decreased again next year)

Description: Ceiling for social security and health insurance
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008

Description: Abolition of common tax for married couples
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008

AREA: Social security benefits
Description:
Modifications in birth grants, parental leave, children's allowance.
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008

Description: Unemployment benefits.
The bill shortens the time of receiving benefits and changes the percentual rate. In the first two months, the benefits are 65% of the average monthly income in the previous job; in the next two months: 50%; and 45% for the rest of the time (until now, it has been 50% for the first three months and 45% for the rest of the time). The receiving time is shortened by one month – age 50 or less: 5 months, 50 – 55: 8 months, over 55: 11 months.
Status: Approved by the house of representatives.

AREA: Sickness benefits
Description:
From January 1st 2008, in the first three days of sickness, there were no benefits, but after a ruling by the Supreme court, it was at first 60% of the daily base, and from September 1st it is 25%.
Nowadays, during the first 14 days of sickness weekends are also paid. From January 2009 this will only apply to sickness longer than two weeks. The first 14 days will be – unlike in the current legal regulation – paid by the employer (during 2009, the state will refund the employer a half of the money, and the employer will receive a 1 percentage point discount on social insurance payments).

Description: Lowering of sick pay in later days of hospitalization.
Status: Valid from January 1st 2008.

AREA: Rent deregulation
There are about 800 000 flats with regulated rent, of which about a half are privately owned, the rest being owned by municipalities.
Description:
At latest by 2010 the yearly regulated rent should reach 5% of the price of property. People living in a flat worth 2.5 million CZK could be paying as much as 10 500 CZK per three years.
Examples of maximum possible increase:
Kladno 50 %
Brno-Bystrc 46 %
Hradec Králové 46 %
Praha 4 42 %
Pardubice 42 %
Jihlava 40 %
Praha 1 39 %
České Budějovice 37 %
Olomouc 35 %
Zlín 32 %
Plzeň 34 %
Liberec 28 %
Praha Hostivař 23 %
Ostrava 20 %
Ústí nad Labem 13 %

Description: M.P.s of the right-wing party ODS are preparing an amendment to the Civil Code that will govern the rents when the special “deregulating” law goes out of date.
According to the amendment, the rent will be determined solely by an agreement between the owner and the tenant. It may well happen that in some cities, the rent will be higher than the open market rent. If the tenant disagrees with the price, a court will decide and determine the rent based on the usual price at the given time and place.
Status: In preparation (to be discussed in the house of representatives in September or October)

APPENDIX II
According to the Eurofond foundation, the development of wages of Czech workers, dependent on collective bargaining, was almost the worst in Europe: after counting in inflation, they went through a real decrease of 1.3 percent. Worse off were only Austrian, Spanish, Slovenian and Cypriot workers.

What it looked like: a couple of reports

(The following reports do not claim to be representative. They only offer a look at the union's approach to the strike, the bosses' attitude, the mood of the workers, as well as their practical actions at a few workplaces... If you would like to send us your own notes – concerning the strike or conditions and status of the working class in general – please e-mail them to us at kpk@protikapitalu.org)

Factory XX

Before the strike, I've been handing out appeals to strike in the factory.

As far as the bosses are concerned, on saturday morning before the strike I received a written statement of the employer from the foreman. In it, the employer reminded us that everyone has the right to strike, that the strike is an obstacle on the part of the employee and an excused absence. He also noted that the employee can't claim the wage for time spent on strike. In the last point of the statement, he agreed with the ČMKOS's insistence on securing persons and property – and that's why the strikers shall follow the orders of their foremen and gather in front of the gatehouse. Everyone was supposed to punch out at 1 pm.

The day before the strike (June 23rd), a regional union official met me in the factory. He said things were looking bleak: “I'm telling you, it's fucked. Only a single factory in the region is stopping production, everyone else is just symbolically supporting the strike.”

On June 24th I was in front of the factory at about five in the morning, giving out appeals, stickers and announcing that we'll meet at 1 pm in front of the gatehouse. Some of the workers replied “Yeah, the foreman already told us yesterday”.

I saw it as a victory and ignored the few shrugging and saying “I'm not supporting this” or “I won't strike”. One worker, not in the unions, with whom I discussed once (he was trying to organize a strike with a co-worker and the then-chairman of the unions was trying to reason him out of it; for some time after that, the guy had to do the worst jobs for being an organizer), even said “Well done”. (But in the end, he himself didn't participate in the strike.)

When I came to the gatehouse at 1 pm, there were only a few people. Seven stopped working, one was going to the afternoon shift and the other two weren't supposed to work anyway. Including me. Three of the strikers were union members (there are about 50 workers in the factory who are in the union), the rest weren't.

One striking colleague said: “Well, I guess the others are quite happy. We were talking about it yesterday. Everyone was like 'OK, sure', but then at 1 pm today they had so much work to do that they couldn't come. The two bigmouths – X and Y – are not here either, of course.” (X is a union member, with a “critical” stance towards the employer, government and capitalism – the key concepts of his critique are “cunts” and “wankers” smile. The other one, Y, is an ex-member of the union, who left quite some time ago, because he wasn't happy with the organization, he said they were too weak etc.)

Fuck! Where was everybody? Did they all shit their pants right at 1 pm? Their co-worker, who was there with us, said: “There was no problem in leaving. The foreman told us it's up to each of us to decide if we wanna go...!” (No wonder when there are two foremen and one of them is a union member! The guy didn't come, but was supporting the strike, so obviously he wouldn't give a hard time to anyone participating in it!!!!)

from e-mails from HH

The Zlín region

About the pseudo-official-strike: generally in the Zlín region only teachers and medical workers were on strike. Public transport was operational and as far as I know, there was no strike in any of the bigger companies (Barum Continental – BC, Mitas, ZPS) – or only symbolical.

In BC, a friend of mine told me, hardly anyone knew about the strike. Moreover, the strike collided with the 13th month salary (it was supposed to be the salary before the strike or after it). The 13th month salaries could have been a good tool to pacify the workers, but I guess that even if they were payed out some other time, there wouldn't be much of a strike.

(Generally you can say that the 13th and 14th month salary plus perhaps the hundred euros that the workers get from Germany during the summer – but I'm not too sure about that – are what keeps people in BC. Without these bonuses, all of the workers who I've talked to would just leave... 14 500 to 15 500 crowns , for four shifts, Saturdays, Sundays, throwing around the damn tires... it just wouldn't be worth the effort.)

EP, Zlín region

One Prague post-office

There are some 14 people at our workplace, all women. Two older co-workers are members of the union, but they look like they rather wouldn't be, it's more like they've only got a few years left so they don't care.

The union leaflets (the union is member of ČMKOS) came on Thursday or Friday before the strike, which was planned for Tuesday.

When we were discussing with co-workers if we're gonna close down the office, it was fifty-fifty: we all knew what the reforms meant; half of us would strike, the other half was afraid of the bosses, if we wouldn't receive disciplinary letters afterwards. The postal service is planning some lay-offs, our office probably doesn't have to be too concerned about it, but anyway...

I guess that if we'd known that some other office in Prague will go on strike, there would have been less worries about the bosses, but we didn't know about the other offices. We didn't know anything, obviously the bosses didn't tell us, but neither did the unions. We just didn't know what's going to happen in the other offices.

The SOS 21 unions, founded recently because of wage demands, didn't approach us before the strike in any way. From what I know, they're mostly active in transport (in Prague and Brno) and in workplaces where mail is transferred from the regions, sorted, and sent to smaller post-offices.

In the end we agreed that we'll be supporting the strike without closing the office... Then the union sent us one striker ribbon. Haha, probably so that we can take turns in wearing it.

During the one hour, when the strike was supposed to take place, we had a minimum of people. There wasn't a lot of clients, considering that the strike was taking place when we usually get a lot of people who use lunch breaks to get their mail... perhaps ten people altogether...? They were probably counting on the office being closed.

From the interview with ZZ

University hospital Motol, Prague

In a hospital with about 5 thousand employees, I didn't see a single leaflet before the strike. On Thursday, June 19th, a call appeared on the intranet, saying that those who want to strike shall show up at the union office. The office is in a godforsaken corridor between two buildings. I went there the same day (and noticed the only “strike” leaflet I saw before the Tuesday strike in the whole hospital, on the union noticeboard).

When the door to the office opened, it was like entering someone else's living room – the three gentlemen, who were there, looked somewhat surprised that someone showed up and they were looking at me as if I fell from Mars. I gave them my written declaration of participation in the strike and asked what's going to happen next. They told me that on Tuesday there will be a meeting, where we shall decide what's going to happen. I said that it would definitely be better if the meeting about the strike would take place before the strike itself, but one of the union officials said: “I don't like these ideological debates. We'll discuss that and hang it on the intranet then.” Hmm.

And that's how it was – the gentlemen probably came to an agreement and the day before the strike, a notice appeared on the intranet, saying that on Tuesday there'll be a discussion on the current situation in the Czech health sector. Eventually it took place, the speakers were the chairman and vice-chairman of the OSZ and the chairman of the LOK in our hospital.

I don't know about any of the nurses I know participating in the strike. (Generally, the mood in the hospital before the strike was that the proposed reforms are bad, but the people up there have already decided and any actions are meaningless.)

YY, Prague

Psychiatric hospital Bohnice

The activity of the union is not visible in our hospital at all, they operate in the usual way: they negotiate the collective agreement, divide the money from the FKSP (Fund for cultural and social care) for the lunches, summer camps for children... You can't notice them in any other way.

In the whole hospital, there are about 1000+ employees, our pavilion has some 25 people, one of them being a unionist.

Before the strike, the unions didn't agitate at all. A week before the strike or so, some paper that they got from above appeared. It was just a general leaflet, with no practical instructions, no appeal along the lines of “If you are interested, come there and there, call this and this number”, just a photocopied general text. The hospital union just printed what they got from above and hung it on the noticeboard – and this applies, as far as I know, to the whole hospital.

The strike couldn't take place, and this again applies to the whole hospital, because we're an acute ward, and acute wards didn't go on strike in other hospitals either. But the unions even made no effort to symbolically distribute stickers saying “Supporting the strike” or so.

Actually I was the only person who put up some information about the reforms etc. on the noticeboard, haha.

The employees in our pavilion, and as far as I know, in the rest of the hospital too, didn't really know that there is some strike, what for... and, what struck me, they didn't even know about the reforms in the health sector. No matter if the nurse was 20, 30 or 50... somehow they just didn't know. And the unions definitely weren't trying to make up for that, apart from that photocopied paper there was no information.

So, Bohnice were in normal operation during the strike.

I also went to take a look at Bulovka: the departments that I know from normal operation were running as if in a weekend mode, the few people sitting in the waiting room were probably emergencies. It seemed that the staff was counting with the strike and didn't make any appointments for that time. No upset patients: empty waiting-rooms, a few piles of union leaflets lying about, and that's it.

From the interview with FF, Psychiatric hospital Bohnice

Railways, Southern Moravia

Almost all of the members of our union local agreed with the strike. But then I can't see why one of them, an engine driver in reserve, didn't walk off. The common action was supported by most of the unorganized co-workers. Of course, there were the usual “also-colleagues”, not interested in anything. They just swim through their life for years like this, just because they can parasitize others. But, just like with lice or fleas, you'd look for any signs of shame on them in vain.

There was one cargo coming through the railway station in Brno during the strike. The driver (a member of the union local in Maloměřice) is well-known, even though he was trying to cover his face from the lens of our member's camera. Another skunk from the same local was our friend, up to now. He was hiding away from us in the machine room and then stuck his head under the desk. But he acted as a “hero” and drove away. I hope that both will leave the Engine-drivers Federation and the local in Maloměřice local will not have to expel them.

From the website of the Engine-drivers Federation: http://www.fscr.cz/zajmy_strojvudce

Andrew factory, Brno

There was no strike in Andrew.

The management pointed out before the strike that argument between the unions and the state has nothing to do with the company and that they don't understand why the company should loose profits... (...and those profits are not small: last year, the enterprise has become the biggest exporter in the region of Southern Moravia... on the other hand, people are hammering away like robots in morning-, night- and afternoon shifts for 12 to 13 thousand ).

The unions in Andrew, in turn, complained about the passivity of the workers. A friend of mine said that nobody was really into it. Moreover, people were also afraid that it's going to show up in their clock cards as an absence – and so they'd loose the quarterly bonus for attendance (3 000 Kč ). The management threatened doing that – and even though the unions said it was not legally possible, perhaps it worked with the people.

So nobody was too enthusiastic about the strike. In fact the real influence of the unions and the support they get from the employees probably played their part here. The support actually comes from a single shift of one company division, where the unions where originally established, and this shift was supposed to be a night shift. The rest of the workers in Andrew are not so tied to the unions.

From the e-mails from JR, Brno

A factory in Brno

In my current job I didn't notice any reactions to the strike, more or less. Some people came late, the morning shift was working as usual. Just one guy was saying he doesn't understand why the unions are on strike when “those reforms are needed”.

I intentionally “forgot” about the strike, didn't come to to the afternoon shift earlier and was planning to use the extra hour (that I usually spend sweating on the bus) for a nice walk through the city. First I sat down at the bus stop, where I usually get on, just in case that some scab goes around and I wouldn't have any alibi at work. Fortunately nobody showed up and I had a short political discussion with an old lady sitting next to me.

Unlike in other cities, where there was massive scabbing, the public transport in Brno was stopped for a full hour and absolutely everyone was on strike!!!

It was great, the people around understood the strike more or less, their reactions were OK (those who forgot that the strike had been planned for that time quickly remembered when their bus didn't go as scheduled, and went by foot without much whining. I met a lot of people on the way, but no one was in a great hurry or swearing...) And the public transport drivers were evidently having a good time, too.

At two o'clock I intentionally missed another bus, the next one was 10 minutes late, so in the end I got to work an hour late. My absence was excused immediately: of course I couldn't do anything about the strike... smile

XX, Brno

Posted By

guadia
Jan 4 2009 17:22

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