European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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3 July 2017

Czech trade unions call for a pay rise

In recent years, trade unions have repeatedly underlined the need for wage increases in Central-Eastern European countries. One of the most emblematic initiatives in this regard has been the campaign ‘The end of cheap labour in Czechia’, launched in September 2015 by the Czech trade union confederation ČMKOS.

The campaign sought to break with the stereotype of Czechia as a reservoir of low-paid, docile workforce, and encouraged union members to demand significant wage increases during upcoming collective bargaining rounds. Following the example of Austrian and German unions, ČMKOS staged regular meetings of union negotiators ahead of official wage talks. The meetings turned out to be a very useful means to coordinate union demands in the absence of sectoral bargaining structures. They provided the negotiators with fact-based arguments that could be used in the bargaining process, empowered them and strengthened their identification with the trade union organisation.

Another innovative aspect of ‘The end of cheap labour in Czechia’ campaign was ČMKOS’s increased media presence. It focused on the communication of a clear message – the need for wage hikes – and aimed at raising support for unions’ actions among the general public. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter were also used by the confederation to approach a wider audience, in particular young workers.

Further reading:

Martišková M. and Sedláková M., ‘Reinventing the role of the Czech trade unions: halfway through the journey’, in M. Bernaciak and M. Kahancová, Innovative union practices in Central-Eastern Europe, ETUI, 2017.

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