This paper aims to provide an insight into how trade union activities in the Czech Republic have developed in the 15 years since the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 and discusses some of the important political, economic and cultural factors which have influenced that development.
The author shares with us his fascinating experiences as an activist in Czechoslovak and latterly Czech politics over a period, which spans some of the great events in the History of the Czech Lands. As an activist in the trade unions he was at the center of the events known as the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and for the 15 years that followed he has been President of Typograficka Beseda (the Print Trade Union) – and has lead the union through the troubled waters of reconstruction, transition to a market economy, democracy, privatisation and EU membership. This first hand account provides a welcome insight from an important “player” in the events that re‐shaped the system of employee relations in that region.
The paper compares the myth of democratic trade union institutions and workers rights under Communism with the reality of the Czechoslovak industrial relations system under the old regime where the trade unions were restricted to dispersing welfare and holiday club benefits. The author explains the major problems which faced the new democratic trade unions which were set‐up in the aftermath of the 1989 Revolutions – in particular the haemorrhage of members, the loss of experienced leaders to politics and business, privatisation and the general distrust of the trade unions which were still perceived by many as still being run by and in the interests of the Communist Party.
One of the main strengths of this paper is that being a player rather than a mere observer its author provides a study which is based on being at the center of the events that moulded the new democratic trade unions that emerged after Communism collapsed in the former Czechoslovakia. The frame work within the article provides a challenge and points the way to further research into the internal and external environmental factors which the author argues are the key to understanding the changes and which determined the political, economic and social structures that the Czech trade unions adopted.
The paper's main value is that it provides primary material – a first hand account of the events that are normally written by people who were not even born when they took place. These are the reflections based on actually being in the place at the time seeing hearing smelling and sharing the feelings of those who were there.
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