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You Tube carries some unedited video from left-liberal internet daily Deník Referendum of yesterday’s large trade union organized protests by public sector workers in Prague against wage and budget cuts. At 40, 000 the numbers are the highest since protests against pension and retirement reforms in the mid-1990s, although much larger numbers took to the streets of the capital in 1999 in protest against the perceived stitching up of politics by the two big parties – now safely at each other’s throats – and again in the ‘Television Crisis’ of 2000, when the same politicians were suspected of heavy handed interference in state TV.
Yesterday’s march seems a typically well ordered Czech social protest and interestingly, there seem to be, large number of home made banners suggesting a certain grassroots impetus lacking in mid-1990s – Czech trade union are more bureaucratic shells and service organizations, than anything distantly resembling a ‘labour movement’. It will be interesting to see if the unions can build on this; whether the Social Democrats can exploit it electorally; and – if either of the former – if the government holds its nerve.
All this adds, of course, spice and interest to the upcoming Senate and local elections.