Home / National Industrial Relations / Countries / Czech Republic / Trade Unions

Trade Unions

ČMKOS is the dominant union confederation in the Czech Republic, although there are others. Overall around 12% of all employees are union members.

There are probably just over 500,000 trade unionists in the Czech Republic, although precise numbers are not published by all union organisations. There are also no official statistics on the proportion of employees in unions. The 2018 Eurofound report estimated union density at 11.9% in 2016.[1] Figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership put union density at 12.7% in 2013.[2] 

 

By far the largest trade union confederation is ČMKOS, which had  292,525members in 2018.[3] ČMKOS is the Czech successor of the Czech and Slovak union confederation, ČS KOS, which was founded in March 1990 after the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 on the basis of strike committees from November 1989. The ROH, the union confederation in the communist period, was dissolved at the founding congress of ČS KOS, and the majority of its members joined ČS KOS, although the new union confederation broke with ROH in terms of policy and organisation. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two separate states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, and ČS KOS split into a Czech organisation, ČMKOS, and a Slovak organisation, KOZ SR.

 

The next largest confederation is ASO ČR, which was founded in 1995 when the agricultural and food workers union (OSPZV) broke away from ČMKOS because it wanted the confederation to take stronger action against the then government’s policies in favour of reducing subsidies to agriculture. Together with two much smaller unions it formed ASO. Other unions have joined ASO since then. The 2018 Eurofound report estimates ASO’s membership at 78,000 in 2017.

 

Another union grouping is the KUK, a confederation of unions founded in 1990, which covers some workers in the cultural sector. Its website states that it had 31,500 members at the latest count, although some of them are in Slovakia.[4] Two smaller union groupings are the OS ČMS, which is close to the communist party and was reported to have some 10,000 members; and KOK, a Christian union confederation with reportedly 5,000 members.[5] It should be emphasised that there is no independent verification of these figures and they are no longer current. There are also a number of independent unions, which are not part of the larger confederations, including a number in transport, such as the train drivers’ union FS ČR, the ceramics union OS SKBP, unions in the media and a police union NOS PČR, which has 16,661 members.

 

The largest confederation, ČMKOS, has 30 separate affiliated member unions, divided broadly on an industry basis. The largest are the metalworkers’ union, OS KOVO, which states that it has 95,000 members, the health workers union OSZSP with 24,733 members, the government employees union OSSOO with 19,683 members and the teachers’ union, ČMOS PŠ, with 18,408 members.[6]

 

ASO has 13 affiliates, of which the largest is the founding union OSPZV-ASO, which states it has 30,000 members, although not all of these are employees.

 

ČMKOS is formally politically independent and its statutes make clear that it is “independent of … political parties and movements”. However, it campaigns to maintain existing social and employment benefits and its 2014-18 programme criticises “neoliberal concepts by Czech right-wing governments”.

 

Unions have lost members sharply in recent years. ČMKOS had 2.45 million members in 1995, eight times its current membership, although some workers are now in other confederations. Until very recently the decline in membership appeared to be continuing. However, growing labour shortages appear to have led to a growth in union membership.[7] Unions have also successfully run recruitment campaigns, including the Konec levné práce (End low paid work) campaign, which ČMKOS estimated produced 27,000 members over two years.[8]

 

There are no official figures on the proportion of union members who are women. However, ČMKOS calculates that women make up 48% of its membership.[9]

[1] Living and Working in the Czech Republic: Working life in the Czech Republic by Renata Kyzlinkova, Stepanka Lehmann, Petr Pojer and Sona Veverkova, Eurofound, 2018 https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/czech-republic#actors-and-institutions (Accessed 12.12.2018)

[2] J. Visser, ICTWSS Database. version 6.0. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), University of Amsterdam. June 2019

[3] ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2019 – 12th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, April 2019  https://www.etuc.org/sites/default/files/circular/file/2019-05/ETUC_Annual_Equality_Survey%202019_FINAL_EN.pdf (Accessed 18.07.2017)

[4] The Characteristics of KUK https://www.odborykuk.cz/ (Accessed 12.12.18)

[5] Trade union membership 2003-2008, by Mark Carley, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, 2009 http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn0904019s/tn0904019s.htm

[6] Figures for individual unions other than OS KOVO from Living and Working in the Czech Republic: Working life in the Czech Republic by Renata Kyzlinkova, Stepanka Lehmann, Petr Pojer and Sona Veverkova, Eurofound, 2018 https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/czech-republic#actors-and-institutions (Accessed 12.12.2018)

[7] Czech Republic: Latest working life developments – Q1 2018, by Renáta Kyzlinková, Eurofound, 2018 https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/article/2018/czech-republic-latest-working-life-developments-q1-2018 (Accessed 12.12.2018)

[8] See https://www.blesk.cz/clanek/zpravy-live-zpravy/494324/centraly-odborum-pribyva-clenu-pocet-dorovnava-ubytek-odboraru.html (Accessed 12.12.2018)

[9] ETUC Annual Gender Equality Survey 2019 – 12th edition, by Lionel Fulton and Cinzia Sechi, ETUC, 2019

L. Fulton (2020) National Industrial Relations, an update. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.