Final Word from Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Milan Štěch is proud to be a union man. As head of the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Labor Unions (ČMKOS), he represents nearly 1m Czechs and boasts that wages at companies with unions are 25% higher than those at companies without. Czech unions have the reputation of being soft and relatively easy to deal with, but this is changing. In part, Štěch says, due to the influence of union activity in nearby countries. Štěch warned in Feb. that unionists would engage in mass protests if their views weren't taken into account during public-finance reform. He is now among the harshest critics of the pension, welfare and tax changes proposed this week. ODS is another big critic, but for entirely different reasons. Ironically, Štěch is playing into ODS's hands. It wants early elections but doesn't want to be seen as the one forcing them. If Štěch keeps going, he might get the credit.


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