Trade unions and their types: from education to mining

Trade unions first began to emerge in this country in the mid-19th century with the development of industry. At this time, workers formed them as a platform for bargaining with their employers. The slogan was that there was strength in numbers. The main mission of trade unions has not changed much since then. What has changed, however, is their composition. In this article, we will therefore look at the specific trade unions operating in the Czech Republic that are of most interest to you.

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Chapters of the article

What are trade unions

Trade unions are organisations that are supposed to represent and protect the interests of workers in various non-industrial sectors, industries or professions. The main purpose of unions is to negotiate with employers on working conditions, wages, workplace safety and other work-related issues. Their main objective is to ensure fair and safe working conditions for their members through collective bargaining and other forms of representation.

Some unions also conduct research on the labour market, economic trends and social issues in order to better understand the situation of workers and to represent their interests more effectively. Finally, they often offer their members legal advice, support in resolving labour conflicts and information on workers’ rights and obligations.

Hint: We have discussed in detail what unions are and what they are for in our next article.

Now let’s take a look at the specific trade unions operating in the Czech Republic that interest you the most.

School unions

Czech school unions are represented by the Czech-Moravian Trade Union of Education Workers. It mainly brings together education employees, pensioners and the unemployed who have worked in the education sector. Among their main points of mission are defending the rights of members and advocating their demands to state authorities and employers. They also aim to improve the working and living conditions of their members, to provide legal assistance and advice, and to monitor occupational health and safety.

School unions are among the most active in the country. We can thus associate them with a number of strikes they have organised in the past. The strike of 27 November last year is a case in point. It lasted a whole day and involved secondary, primary and nursery schools. Its aim was to increase the budget in the Czech education system and to increase the salaries of non-teaching staff, such as janitors, cleaners and cooks in school canteens.

Tip: You can read what a strike is and what it is actually for in our article.

Health Departments

The Health Professions Union is represented by the Health and Social Work Union of the Czech Republic. It brings together people who work in health and social services and students and staff of schools focusing on the education of health and social workers. Their main activities include protecting the rights of union members and fair pay. This is done through collective bargaining leading to collective agreements.

In addition, the union offers its members counselling, bargaining assistance, education, entertainment, sports and culture. It also includes a provident fund to help union members in the event of difficult life situations.

Health unions are also among the most active in the Czech Republic and regularly advocate for pay increases and improved working conditions for their members. For example, they are currently actively working on increasing overtime in the health care sector. Last year, health unions successfully negotiated a pay rise for doctors.

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Police Departments

Police unions are represented primarily by the Independent Trade Union of the Police of the Czech Republic. It is intended for members or employees of the security forces, police school or police academy, as well as employees of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.

The Department provides legal representation in the field of service and employment and also legal advice of a private nature. It also provides indemnity insurance, life insurance, travel insurance and social assistance for its members. In addition, it offers other complementary services and activities.

The current agenda is primarily focused on strengthening the security force, increasing the Police budget along with funds for food allowances and increasing the income of the members by at least 10%.

Trade Union of Trade Workers

The trade workers are mainly organised by the UZO or the Union of Trade, Logistics and Service Employees. Its activity consists of collective bargaining with the Union of Trade and Tourism of the Czech Republic and individual employers to ensure adequate working and wage conditions for its members. They also provide training, counselling, legal assistance and representation in court.

Currently, the UZO is dealing with the issue of closing shops during public holidays, which is common abroad, but in our country, shop employees often have to work during public holidays.

Business Unions

Business unions, or the Union of Business and Trade Associations, bring together all kinds of entrepreneurs and aim to prevent attacks on the freedom of enterprise, to prevent the expansion of bureaucracy, the increase in the obligations of entrepreneurs and the restriction of their rights. In summary, their aim is therefore primarily to prevent state interference in free enterprise.

They opposed, for example, electronic sales registration and restrictions on business activity during the covid-19 pandemic.

Tip: Do you want to become more independent at work and adapt your work pace to your needs? Are you planning to work in an industry where employment is almost impossible? Are you looking for some extra income? In all these cases, a trade licence may be useful. In our article, we give you five steps to easily set up a trade.

Mining unions

TheAssociation of Mining Unions consists of a total of 9 constituent organisations. The main activities include negotiating collective agreements, legal advice for members and supervision of workplace safety. The association is also a member of the broader Mining, Geology and Petroleum Workers‘ Union.

The union played a particularly important role during the period of mine and power plant closures, negotiating smooth layoffs and government compensation for its members. Workplace safety control is also a big issue, which is very important in mining occupations.

Does it pay to be a union member?

Being a member of a worker’s union can have a number of advantages and disadvantages, depending on the particular situation and the work sector. In general, however, the advantages and disadvantages include the following points:

Advantages of a union

  1. Collective bargaining: as has been mentioned several times, unions negotiate collective agreements in which they can secure better wages, working conditions and other benefits. As individual employees, you would be hard pressed to achieve such results.
  2. Legal protection: unions provide legal protection for members in the event of disputes with their employer, including unfair dismissal or discrimination. Some unions also offer legal advice in other areas, including private life.
  3. Jobsecurity: Unions work to ensure job stability for their members and protect them from sudden dismissal.
  4. Social and health benefits: Union members often have access to better social and health benefits, such as life and health insurance.
  5. Solidarity and support: Unions offer their members contacts and support. They are often the only organisations where workers can come together, share their experiences and support each other.

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Disadvantages of unions

  1. Union dues: union membership requires paying dues, which can be financially challenging for some. In the Czech Republic, it is 1% of net wages.
  2. Potential conflicts: Relations between unions and management can sometimes be strained, which can lead to labour strikes or other forms of protest that can have a short-term negative impact on workers. Conversely, strikes are sometimes the only way for workers to get their demands met.
  3. Limited flexibility: Some union contracts may limit the ability of workers to bargain individually with their supervisors over specific aspects of their work.
  4. Political and economic pressures: Unions often engage in political lobbying or activities that some members may not agree with. In addition, in some cases, unions may face economic pressures that may affect their ability to protect the interests of their members.
  5. Level of representation: Some members may feel that their specific needs or issues are not adequately represented or addressed by the union.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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