While the government has been talking for eight months, in other countries they have already completed a number of things, says Vít Samek, vice-chairman of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, in an interview with the Echo24 daily. According to him, it is necessary to start acting immediately and not wait for a European solution, because companies and thus employees are at risk of serious problems. As a sort of wake-up call for the government, the unions decided to call a demonstration for October.
According to Minister of Labor Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL), he does not understand the announced demonstration, according to him, the government is working on a solution at the national and European level. Do you think the unions are acting constructively?
For eight months now, we have been hearing that the government is preparing something, saying, discussing, pondering, considering, nothing is excluded… and the same formulations are being used. And in other countries, meanwhile, governments have a number of things done. People and businesses there profit from it. This is a really serious situation, where there is a threat of serious problems for a number of companies, which may end their activities due to lack of help from the government. And that has terrible consequences.
In this context, the demonstration makes sense. It is such a warning for the government to realize that this is a really serious matter. They still take it as if nothing is happening, they will calmly wait and in a month nothing again and they will keep saying that they are waiting for a European solution, while you watch TV programs on this topic, everyone has agreed that, in principle, a single European solution is not possible , because each country is in a different situation. Some have already implemented the measures, others have not yet, others have a different energy mix than we do. It’s just a game of time. And since we already know the time game well from salary negotiations, there is no time to wait. Employers are already turning to us to help them put pressure on the government.
So you want them to come up with some kind of national solution and you don’t want to rely on a solution being found at the European level.
It’s not about what we want to rely on. The point is that Czech companies are starting to drip. Precisely because no one helped them. Foreigners are helped. This means that a foreign company with state aid and a Czech one without state aid meet in competition on the market. It is logically uncompetitive and will lead to its demise. If this is not an argument for the government, then we don’t know what else should frighten it other than such a development. Europe will not really solve something like this.
What are, say, the most pressing concrete requirements?
It’s a fan of demands, so I don’t like the word demands very much, it’s advice to the government on what to do. And that is primarily price regulation. During the first republic, it was known who a ketas was. He was one who exploits a temporary lack of something to make a profit. This definition today is met by a number of companies that drive prices up only because there is a great shortage of energy, resources such as oil and gas. A normal state, for example France, will use price regulation in such a case. We have a law for this, the government knows it, but does not use it. Historically, roughly 11% of all prices on our market are regulated, for example the price of water is regulated. Why shouldn’t energy prices, on which the survival of companies depend, be regulated? It is the basis of. We want the government to work with common sense and a bit rationally, so that it doesn’t wait for anything. If companies run into problems, they will lay off workers, disappear, and unemployment will increase. We definitely don’t want that, that’s what our demands are.
You are also pushing for further wage increases, some experts have been warning for a long time that this is a push for further growth in inflation. Do you think it won’t happen?
These are pseudo-experts. If you use common sense and find that the prices of energy and materials and resources that the company needs to work are rising by hundreds of percent, how can a five, six percent increase in wages trigger inflation. The prices of raw materials have been rising here for a long time. The fact that nothing dramatic is happening is evidenced by the fact that the Czech National Bank (ČNB), the body responsible for the fight against inflation, increases the salary of employees by how much? About inflation. This means that the CNB is not afraid that raising salaries by inflation will cause any significant increase in inflation. Why should we be worse than the CNB, the supreme authority for the fight against inflation? Here, we are constantly being attacked for adding a little more to people’s salaries and causing endless inflation, while when the prices of everything are rising, every trader, producer of anything boldly increases their prices by tens of percent, i.e. drives inflation up, no one minds it.
If you are not satisfied with the government even by October, will the demonstrations continue or will there be strikes, for example?
It’s useless to talk about what would happen if. Now the government has received a clear signal, recently it has received more of them, it has also received it from its own ranks, if you take the Governor of the South Bohemian Region (Martin Kuba) or the Minister of Justice (Pavlo Blažek). In other words, it can be seen that the government receives a huge number of warnings, even from its own ranks, who are also worried, because the people in the regions have to be responsible for having energy for schools, medical facilities and others, they are also nervous and do not understand what is the government waiting for? We believe that the joint pressure – we are only a part of it – will finally move the government to understand that it cannot bear any more delay.