The Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) has called a demonstration against poverty for Saturday afternoon. The trade unionists are demanding that the government introduce price regulation of selected commodities, raise the minimum wage and introduce a tax on extraordinary profits at a time of war in Ukraine and an energy crisis. The turnout was poor, with police saying it was in the thousands.
Many demonstrators wore reflective vests indicating their affiliation with the various trade unions, flags, and standard banners. Protesters sounded their horns. There were also police patrols and an anti-conflict team in the surrounding streets before the protest began.
There was a petition booth for communist presidential candidate Josef Skála in the middle of the square. Near the central train station, where some of the demonstrators were coming to the protest, was the petition stand of Josef Středula, the chairman of the ČMKOS. He had also announced his presidential candidacy.
At the beginning of the demonstration, Středula called on the government to help people and companies. He said that if this does not happen, the Czech Republic has huge problems ahead of it. Dagmar Žitníková, chairwoman of the Health and Social Care Trade Union, called for prices to be capped and for people to live in dignity.
Středula quoted the first Czech president, Václav Havel, as saying that indifference to others and the fate of the whole is what opens the door to evil. The demonstrators in Wenceslas Square, he said, are those who are afraid of the future.
Žitníková said the demonstrators are not indifferent to how they, their parents, and their children will live. She criticized the rise in energy and food prices and called for price caps. She said regulated prices are already in place in the health sector, so they could also be in other sectors.
The unions had said before the event that the government should move to regulate food, energy, fuel, water, and rent prices. At the same time, they said, a tax on extraordinary profits should be introduced.
Another demand is to maintain the real purchasing power of wages and salaries at least this year’s level. The last demand articulated is an increase in the minimum wage to CZK 18,200.
The trade unions, whose members have organized demonstrations from all over the Czech Republic, do not say how the extraordinary expenses of the budget, which are planned to be a deficit of CZK 330 billion this year, will be covered.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic’s debt has been growing unsustainably in recent years, which some economists have pointed out and called for systemic changes, especially in the structure of mandated spending.