Illustration photo – Chairman of the KOVO Trade Union Roman Ďurčo.
Prague – Trade unionists of the largest union KOVO want to protest in front of the government office on March 29 against the planned pension reform. They mainly criticize the plan to raise the retirement age to 68. KOVO union leader Roman Ďurčo said this at the convention of civil service unions. Minister of Labor Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) said that he will publish his proposal for pension changes in the coming weeks. The trade unions complain that the head of the department and the government do not discuss the prepared form of the reform with them. Jurečka recently stated that he has not yet received constructive proposals from the trade unionists.
“There should be a consensus on the pension reform. Not that the government will cook it up in a few days,” said Ďurčo.
The leader of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) Josef Středula called it scandalous that trade unionists are learning about the planned fundamental changes to the pension system from journalists. He criticized that the trade union headquarters gets little time for comments on proposals and amendments. “That's really not the right social dialogue… We want to be part of it, there will definitely be feedback from us. That it doesn't have to be pleasant, that just happens in debates. Social dialogue is sometimes about less pleasant things,” said Středula.
In the approved budget, expenditure on pensions exceeds income by 62.5 billion crowns. The amount still lacks the extraordinary June valorization due to inflation, which could cost up to 34.4 billion crowns this year. The government is now proposing a one-time limited addition for 15.4 billion. The opposition is blocking it in the House of Representatives. The unions are against it. The Minister of Labor also wants to present a proposal for a model of milder valuations, which would apply from next year. The retirement age is already gradually increasing in the Czech Republic. For men, it grows by two months a year, for women usually by four. In the 1930s, the limit stops at 65. To curb rising spending and ensure pensions are sustainable for future generations, members of the government are talking about the need to continue to move the age limit gradually, by about a year per decade. Economists and foreign institutions have been advising this for a long time.
According to the government's program statement, the pension should have three parts – basic, merit and savings. The basic part of the pension is determined with regard to dignity in old age and the financial possibilities of the state. The amount of contributions and the number of children are reflected in the merit section. A state or public law fund should be established for savings. Current pension savings should also be preserved. The mandatory insurance period for obtaining a pension is to be shortened. The amount of pension could be determined for spouses from the joint assessment base. People should be able to send a percentage of their pension contributions to their parents or grandparents. Earlier pensions for demanding professions should be made possible, employers should contribute more to it. Work at retirement age should be supported, years of service should be taken into account more. Widows' and widowers' pensions are to increase, the statement says.
Prime Minister Fiala: The state must define what services it should provide
The state must define what services it should provide. It should determine what the state administration should look like. The agenda needs to be revised and modernized. Digitization is necessary. Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) said this at the congress of the Trade Union of State Bodies and Organizations in Prague. He thanked the officials and other employees of the state for their work. According to the chairman of the union, Pavel Bednář, the unions are not opposed to the changes. But first they ask for impact analyses.
“Slowly the time is coming for us to make more profound changes. Our government and a large part of the citizens are not satisfied with the way the state works. We are aware that it is not the fault of the employees It's more of a structural error,” the prime minister said. He mentioned the amount of work and setting it up.
According to the Prime Minister, the agenda needs to be significantly revised and modernized. “The state has to define how it should behave towards citizens in general, what services it would like to provide,” said Fiala. According to him, direction has been underestimated for a long time, and in the future it is necessary to think in which areas the state should be stronger and where it should recede into the background. He added that there is a need to strengthen education, health and defense. Digitization is necessary in order to facilitate the work of officials and to be friendly to citizens. “It is possible that these changes will not take place smoothly and without problems from the very beginning,” the Prime Minister pointed out. He asked the unions and their members as well as other employees for patience and “a certain degree of tolerance” during the implementation. “If we want to make the work of civil servants prestigious, the only way to do this is to reduce the number of agendas and digitize,” added the Prime Minister. He pointed out that the quality of services and the overall impression of the functioning of the state depend on the work of civil servants.
According to Bednář, the unions are not opposed to the changes. “We have never said that we oppose the efficiency of the state, but it must be supported by analysis,” said Bednář.
Supreme State Secretary Jindřich Fryč mentioned that especially young employees are leaving the offices. This has an impact on the functioning of institutions, Fryč pointed out. According to him, many people state that they prefer not to propose changes, because instead of being praised, it will turn against them. “The safe tactic is to not change anything. There is a lack of space for innovation and the courage we expect. The blame cannot be placed on politicians, the professional public and the media,” Fryč said. He emphasized that there is a need to invest in the civil service, not only in salaries, but also in the environment.
Civil service unions bring together 19,000 trade unionists from ministries, financial administrations, labor offices, social security administrations or cadastral offices. The union also has members among the employees of the courts and public prosecutor's offices, the statistical office, the customs administration, the prison service and the public administration. The management of company trade unions and the union have been complaining for a long time about the increasing agenda, the process and form of digitization, outdated equipment, aggressiveness of clients and insufficient earnings. Leaders also criticize politicians, according to whom some of them contribute to the dishonor of the civil service with their statements.
The police president wants to push for a 25% increase in the tariffs of civilian employees
The police leadership will seek to increase the salaries of civilian employees. He wants to enforce a gradual increase in their salary scales by 25 percent. Police President Martin Vondrášek said this at the convention of the Trade Union of Employees of State Bodies and Organizations. According to him, the earnings of support professions in the police force are falling and not competitive compared to the average national wage. About 39,500 policemen serve in the police, and there are approximately 9,900 civilian employees. Remuneration is regulated by the government in its regulations.
“I cannot imagine the operation of the security force without civilian employees. What bothers us the most is the drop in their salaries compared to the average nominal salary in the Czech Republic… Our competitiveness has deteriorated greatly. We are currently at 78 percent of the average salary in the Czech Republic. This is in mathematical terms, more than 8,700 crowns. This is our biggest problem – competition on the labor market,” said Vondrášek, who himself is a member of the trade union. According to him, ten years ago civilian employees of the police received 96 percent of the average salary. In 2015, the ratio dropped to 84 percent, Vondrášek said.
According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, in 2013 the national average nominal wage was 25,035 crowns. The average remuneration of civil servants was thus roughly one thousand kroner lower. In 2015, it reached 26,591 crowns. The difference reached about 4250 crowns. For this year, the Ministry of Labor expects an amount of 40,324 crowns.
The police management proposes to adjust the salary base of civilian workers. “We would like it if a separate category of civilian employees of the security forces was set aside in the salary regulation – in the past it was already the case that the tariff scale of salaries was increased by 25 percent of the upper limit, so in the salary class. Of course, we are aware of the state's situation and we will propose that it be spread over several years, because the state cannot afford it from one day to the next,” said the police president.
According to him, the police management checked the workload of civilian workers last year. 1,600 people then moved to a higher salary class due to more professional work. For the addition of the police, it received 200 million crowns for this year.
According to the chairman of the Firefighters' Union, Jiří Jílek, the fire department is also troubled by the level of earnings. He mentioned the amount of 28,000 crowns gross for the firemen for proving their resilience and saving their lives. “When I recalculate the salary, it occurs to me to use the link 'cashier in Lidl',” said Jílek. He sees the way forward in the cooperation of individual trade unions and joint pressure in negotiations on wage growth.
Public sector union leaders want to start negotiations with the government on a possible wage growth in the spring. Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) mentioned today at the convention of civil service unions that salaries have increased. In the security forces, tariffs have increased by ten percent since January.