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ISSUE 59 page 4

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Czech unions keep up pressure on government after massive protest turn-out
TRADE UNIONS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC SCORED A MASSIVE success in April when about 100,000 people packed the Prague streets to protest about austerity measures taken by the centre-right government and endemic corruption in the nation’s public life.  Before the demonstration even the CMKOS union federation themselves predicted that about 40,000 people would arrive but, in fact, police estimates were 80-90,000 while organisers claimed 120,000. Unions said that cuts by Petr Nečas’s administration would cost the equivalent of $603, or about 40% of the average worker’s salary. Despite a low state debt of 41.2% of annual economic output (GDP) the government want to cut spending by about $3 billion next year in order to reduce the annual budget deficit to less than 3% as required by EU rules. It seemed likely that
Mr. Nečas was about to lose his majority after the leader of his partner party in coalition was found guilty of corruption. The opposition Social Democrat party, who are the favourites to win an election, is pledged to reverse many of the cuts,  However as the government has limped on the unions are keeping up the pressure with further demonstrations, including one in favour of elderly people, occupation of ministry buildings and a general strike planned for the end of June. Stop Government spokesman Jan Majicek said ‘Interesting protest actions are being prepared. The proposed ideas are lively and unusual’.

100,000 trade unionists mass in Prague for the ‘Stop Government’protest



10-year wait for work injury law is long enough say unions

THE TERM ‘MUSCULO-SKELETAL DISORDER’ (MSD) COVERS A MULTITUDE OF diseases of the muscles, tendons and nerves of the limbs and spinal column. They include tendinitis, tenosynovitis, myalgias and nerve compressions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury. As a group the complaint is the most commonly reported by workers in the EU. Generally they only appear after exposure to work-related strains such as uncomfortable postures, repetitive and monotonous tasks, inappropriate work organisation and methods, and the lifting of heavy loads. It is estimated by the European Commission that a half of all work absences of over three days are due to MSDs and that 60% of those made permanently unable to work are suffering from them. The total cost of MSDs could account for up to 3.8% of the value of Member States’ economies.
Despite the importance of the disorder there is no comprehensive EU legislation covering it. Instead various measures have been passed, based on the 1989 framework directive, such as those on manual handling, video display units and vibration. The Commission have long recognised this omission and have been working for about ten years to remedy it. While both the European Parliament and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) have repeatedly urged them to hurry up, they suspect employers’ lobbying is delaying things. European employers’ associations oppose any new law and claim that it would cost companies €3.7 billion in administration. However the ETUC’s research body, the ETUI, says that the employers’ report ‘'fails to mention the widely recognised fact that the human and economic cost of MSD is far higher than the alleged costs of better prevention’. They are expecting the proposed directive to be published this month ‘if the Commission does not cave in to pressure from the employers’.

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