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Trade Unions

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

There are perhaps 800,000 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. Figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership put union density at 17.3% for 2009.1

By far the largest trade union confederation is ČMKOS, which had 407,000 members in 2011.2 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. Czechoslovakia split into two separate states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in 1993 and ČS KOS split into a Czech organisation, ČMKOS, and a Slovak organisation, KOZ SR.

The next largest confederation is ASO, 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, notably the railway workers union (OSŽ) in 1998 and the doctors’ union (LOK-SČL). A Eurofound report states that ASO had 150,000 members in 2011.

Other union groupings include: the KUK, a confederation of unions covering some workers in the culture sector, with some 42,000 members, according to a Eurofound report on trade union membership in 2008, although some of the unions in this area have recently joined ČMKOS; the OS ČMS, which is close to the communist party and is reported to have some 10,000 members; and KOK, a Christian union confederation with reportedly 5,000 members. 3 It should be emphasised that there is no independent verification of these figures. 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, and unions in the media.

The largest confederation, ČMKOS, has 29 separate affiliated member unions divided broadly on an industry basis, of which the largest are the metalworkers’ union, OS KOVO, with some 140,000 members and the teachers’ union, ČMOS PŠ, with around 50,000 members.


ASO has 13 affiliates, of which the largest is the founding union OSPZV-ASO, which states it has 100,000 members, although not all of these are employees. The railway workers’ union OSŽ, which is also an ASO affiliate, reports that it has around 45,000 members.


ČMKOS is formally politically independent and its statutes make clear that it is “independent of … political parties and movements”. However, it opposed many of the policies of the centre right government, led by Petr Nečas, who resigned in June 2013, and it welcomed the policy programme produced by the coalition government which was elected at the end of the same year.


Unions have lost members sharply in recent years. ČMKOS had 2.45 million members in 1995, five times its current membership, although some workers are now in other confederations. The decline in membership does not appear to have halted, although unions are increasingly concerned to recruit and retain new members.

L. Fulton (2015) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.