March 29, 2017 / 1:14 PM / 2 years ago

Czech bus drivers call strike over wage hikes for April 6

PRAGUE, March 29 (Reuters) - Czech bus drivers will go on a nationwide strike on April 6, a trade union official said on Wednesday, calling for higher pay.

The industrial action comes as the country’s centre-left government, which faces an election this year, has shown a willingness to raise the pay for emergency workers.

Private sector companies in the Czech Republic, one of the EU’s tightest job markets, have also reported salary increases due to labour shortages.

According to Eurostat, unemployment in the former Eastern bloc state is at 3.4 percent - the lowest in the European Union.

“The strike will take place on April 6, it is declared for 24 hours so far, from midnight to midnight,” Alfonz Kokoska, deputy chairman of trade unions in transportation, told Reuters.

Unions said the strike will affect only transport between cities, towns and villages. Public transport in big cities such as trams and subway in Prague, will be not affected.

Last time Czechs faced a similar protest was in June 2011, when trains and Prague’s underground stopped service.

The drivers’ wages are composed of a government rate of 98 crowns (3.63 euros) per hour and a variable rate set by local councils. The unions have not specified the rise they are seeking.

The strike’s announcement came as the government approved a 10 percent hike in salaries of policemen, firefighters and other state security personnel earlier this month.

Parliamentary elections are due in October, with Finance Minister Andrej Babis’ ANO movement in a double-digit lead ahead of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s ruling Social Democrats.

In the private sector, workers at Hyundai Motor Co’s Czech car factory will get on average a 12 percent pay rise this year, the company said on Tuesday.

Last year, the real wages in the country grew by 3.5 percent, the fastest rate in nine years, according to the latest data released on March 10.

The average gross monthly wage is 25,061 crowns ($1,000.84) a fraction of wages in neighbouring Germany but similar to wages in other central European former communist countries. (1 euro = 27.0106 Czech crowns) ($1 = 25.0400 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Petra Vodstrcilova and Robert Muller; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)

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