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Czech public workers on strike, government firm

* Czechs strike in rare labour action

* PM says will not back off, ready to take unpopular steps

PRAGUE, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Czech public sector workers went on strike against the government’s austerity measures on Wednesday, in a rare strike in the central European country.

Unions have resisted the centre-right government’s plans to cut the public sector wage bill by 10 percent next year, saying they expected one-sixth of the country’s 600,000 public sector workers to join the one-day strike.

“I want my pay to be at least at the current level, even if it is not enough,” librarian Jan Broum, 35, said in the closed national library building where many employees had gone on strike.

“I want the government to find resources somewhere else -- implement progressive taxation, stop wasting public money and do away with corruption,” he told Reuters.

The country’s last general strike was in 1989, when millions of Czechs walked out to protest against the Communist government, one of the decisive moments in the collapse of communist rule in the country.

Economists have said this time they do not expect the strike to have a big economic impact.

The Czech Republic’s debt is under 40 percent of gross domestic product, about half of the EU average but is expected to rise without reforms. The government wants to cut the public sector deficit to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product from 5.1 percent expected this year.

Walkouts are very rare in the Czech Republic, where union membership has shrunk to about 600,000 of 4 million workers.

Czech media reported a number of schools were closed and some hospitals reduced service, however many workers only declared support for the strike’s aims without stopping work.

A wave of labour protests has swept through Europe as governments sharply slash spending to calm markets and narrow budget deficits inflated by the economic crisis.

The unions said they may build up pressure by calling a general strike at a later date unless the government softens the plan for job losses and wage cuts.

The cabinet, elected on a programme of cutting the budget deficit below 3 percent by 2013 and reforming the pension, health and welfare systems, rejected to climb down on the wage plan.

“We did not win our mandate to sit and wait until clerks from international institutions start putting our public sector finances in order, as is happening in some EU countries,” Prime Minister Petr Necas said on Tuesday.

“We are not afraid of unpopular steps, we are ready to make them.” (Reporting by Roman Gazdik, Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Maria Golovnina)