A Million People Stand Against the Government: Czech Republic’s Largest School Protest Since 1989

Stanislava Benešová

On Monday, the Czech Republic saw its largest school protest and strike since 1989, with up to a million company employees participating, according to union reports. Approximately 70 percent of primary, middle, and kindergarten students joined the all-day warning strike. While some schools were closed, others operated under limited conditions.

Healthcare professionals, civil servants in labor offices and the Czech Social Security Administration, and employees of large industrial companies were among those on strike. According to the unions, hundreds of companies were involved, and the number of strikers could reach up to a million.

“We warned that if things do not move and the government does not start addressing our demands, the situation will radicalize,” said Josef Středula, Chairman of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, yesterday.

Education Minister Mikuláš Bek (STAN) apologized in an open letter to parents on the eve of the strike, expressing regret that they and their children had become hostages in the dispute between the government, unions, and strikers.

Sixty-four percent of people support the protests and strikes, as shown by a flash survey by the STEM/MARK agency for Czech Television. However, only a fifth expect the strike to force the government to make concessions.

The company strike is primarily a warning, lasting an hour between 12 and 1 pm. “We will shut down the aggregates for an hour,” said Petr Slanina, the head of the unionists of Ostrava’s Liberty, who said that up to 2,000 employees will join the strike.

In Mladá Boleslav’s Škoda Auto, however, the protest will be more prolonged. “Cars will not come off the assembly line for two hours,” said union leader Jaroslav Povšík. Around 8,000 people are expected to participate there. In places where there will be no strike, employees will symbolically support the protests. For example, some employees of the Prague rescue service will have stickers on their uniforms.