The Czech ombudsman’s office dealt with over 7,000 complaints last year, the largest number since the office’s founding. The numbers come from the office’s report to the Petitions Committee of Parliament made on Thursday and show an increase of more than a thousand complaints since 2007. The complaints most often dealt with social security and court delays and only about a third of them fell within the ombudsman’s competencies. The late ombudsman Otakar Motejl proposed 16 legislative changes as a result of the complaints. The office of ombudsman, which defends people who feel wronged by authorities, was taken up Pavel Varvařovský earlier this month.
The basic salaries of Members of Parliament and Senators should be 56,000 crowns per month in 2011, according to a proposal from the Ministry of Labour, or 3,000 crowns less than this year. The basic pay for ministers would drop almost 6,000 to 107.000 crowns. The salaries of judges will return to 2009 pay grades of 54.000 crowns. The Czech Constitutional Court recently overturned a four-percent reduction in the salaries of the judges in the Czech Republic citing a previous verdict which declared that the salaries of judges had to be stable and could not be cut.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas is to meet with labour union representatives on Thursday evening to specify the means by which the government intends to decrease public sector wages in 2011. Unions have complained they have not been informed of a clear plan to implement the government’s recent proposal of cuts and say they will prepare their further response according to what they learn from the PM. The most recent proposal, which was passed by the cabinet but has not been published, entails “bracket remuneration” that would allow employees’ salaries to be set regardless of the number of years they have been employed. Union leaders say they will not agree with this proposal.
The Governor of the region of Central Bohemia, David Rath, has lost the second round of a lawsuit against the weekly magazine Reflex. Mr Rath was seeking an apology from the publishing company Ringier for ethics violations and defamation over a cover-page caricature that depicted him as a cross between Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin. After the ruling, Mr Rath indicated he would be taking his case to the Supreme and possibly European courts.
The District Court of Ostrava has sentenced eight people to imprisonment for the collapse of the country’s largest credit union, 1. Družstevní záložna Ostrava. The list of charges against the bank leaders and managers of associated companies reportedly took the judge two hours to read. The sentences ranged from four to nine and a half years, with the longest term being handed down to the bank’s director, who was found to have caused roughly a billion crowns in damages. The case has been underway since 2005 and two other people have already been convicted.
An apparent grenade explosion in a shopping centre in the eastern town of Krnov has killed a man, reported to be a thief, and left six others injured. Four of the injured are policemen. The police department says the deceased man was robbing a bureau de change armed with a grenade, which exploded during a fray with policemen attempting to arrest him. Police are not yet sure whether the explosive was detonated intentionally. Rescuers say one of the officers is in critical condition with multiple injuries and has been flown to hospital is Ostrava.
A South Moravian court has ruled that the Slav Epic, the masterpiece of artist Alfons Mucha, must be turned over to the City of Prague for a prepared exhibit in the National Gallery. The decision overrules a restraining measure filed by the town of Moravský Krumlov to prevent the renowned, 20-canvass artwork from being relocated until questions regarding its ownership are resolved. Mucha’s will bestows the paintings to the City of Prague, though only on the condition that a special pavilion is created for them. No such venue was ever built, and the court based its decision on a 1993 document through which Prague assumed ownership of them from the Ministry of Culture. The decision may be appealed, however Moravský Krumlov must hand over the artwork at least until the planned exhibit ends on May 31.
The Municipal Court of Brno has begun hearings against members of the recently banned Workers’ Party charged with disseminating neo-fascism and hate speech at a May Day rally. None of the six accused appeared in court, citing various reasons. The case is a retrial of an objected lawsuit in which the defendants were found guilty and faced up to five years imprisonment. Among them is the former chairman of the Workers’ Party and current leader of the Workers’ Party for Social Justice, who warned the demonstrators against immigrants as opposed to decent people. Experts on Thursday testified that those remarks and others constituted intolerance of national minorities.
The Czech Social Security Administration reports that it was short of nearly 21 billion crowns in pension funds at the end of August, nearly twice as much as the same period the previous year. Sickness compensations however, which are also paid from social security, were nearly 1 billion crowns out of the red, slightly easing the overall deficit. At the end of August 2008 the social security administration showed a total surplus of 9.6 billion crowns.
Meanwhile, the daily Právo reports that the Minister of Finance, Miroslav Kalousek, has prepared a change in funding regulations that may lead to state employees losing benefits next year. The fifty percent cut to the cultural and social needs fund could entail the loss of state employees’ allowances for holidays, pension insurance, emergency assistance payments or meal allowances. According to the finance minister’s report on the change, the additional 1.2 billion crowns saved would help decrease the budget deficit and meet the government’s goal of reforming public finances for the sake of a balanced budget by 2016. The state employees’ union has said the proposal is devastating. Last week a demonstration of some 40,000 people protested 10% cuts to state employees’ salaries that have already been proposed for 2011. Trade Unions are considering strike action in October.