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Tens of thousands rally in Prague over public sector pay cuts

Tens of thousands of public sector workers rallied in the Czech capital Prague to protest austerity plans to slash their salaries. The country's new center-right government has vowed it will stand firm.

Protesters cross Manesuv bridge on Tuesday

Parts of Prague were brought to a halt by the protest

Police officers, firefighters, soldiers and nurses were among tens of thousands protesting in Prague on Tuesday over government plans to slash salaries.

Between 25,000 and 30,000 people from across the Czech Republic took part in the protest, according to official police figures. The demonstration, the country's biggest labor protest of the past three years, brought traffic in some parts of the city to a halt.

Prime Minister Petr Necas

Necas says 'no circumstances' will persuade him to back off

"These ill-considered measures risk being translated into a deterioration of citizens' security," Milan Stepanek, head of the Czech Republic's Independent Police Union, said of the cuts.

Government sticking to targets

The country's new center-right cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Petr Necas, has resolved to reduce the budget deficit from 5.3 percent of gross domestic product this year to 4.6 percent next year.

"I have said openly that the government will not back off, under any circumstances," Necas said in response to the demonstrations.

Unions say they could accept a salary freeze, but they claim that imposing cuts of 10 percent for public sector employees is going too far.

The Czech government hopes to restrict its borrowing to three percent of GDP by 2013.

Necas is pressing ahead with the cuts as part of austerity measures being adopted by governments with budget deficits across Europe in the wake of the Greek sovereign debt crisis.

Author: Richard Connor (AP/dpa/AFP/Reuters)

Editor: Susan Houlton

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