In Business News this week: Czech government approves austerity measures but might run into problems securing EU funds; PM Nečas speaks of the consequences a Greek exit from the eurozone would have on the Czech Republic; the biggest Czech betting firm Tipsport buys its competitor; Czechs smoke less and most of them want a ban on smoking in public spaces; Czechs lie in their CVs more than other nations.
The government’s decision to remove tax rebates on fuel and to introduce a consumption tax on wine was behind a nation-wide farmers’ protest held on Wednesday. Farmers brought out around 2,000 heavy farm vehicles such as tractors and harvesters on 185 roads across the country to deliberately slow traffic. The Association of Czech Farmers, which argues that the move will strip Czech farmers of their competitiveness within the EU, has warned that more protests will take place in the coming weeks and months.
Czech trade unions along with members of several dozen NGOs are staging an anti-government protest in Prague on Tuesday. The activists are protesting against the reforms and austerity measures of the centre-right Czech government; they are marching from the unions’ headquarters in Žižkov towards the seat of the government across the river. The police have closed several throughways in the centre of the capital due to the protest. The rally is expected to end by 3 PM. Union leaders also announced no major protests were planned until the end of June.
Opposition groups on Monday announced details of their protest against the government’s austerity measures planned for May 22. Members of trade unions and several dozen NGOs, associated in the Stop the Government group, will stage a march through the capital that will end in front of the government building. The activists are also planning several other events including the occupation of several ministerial buildings which should take place in May and June while Czech trade unions are considering a large-scale strike later this month.
Czech mothers on average earn less than women without children, while fathers earn more than men without families, according to a new survey by the Central European Labour Studies Institute released on Sunday. The inequality is most evident in the age group of 30 to 39 where women without children make nearly 6,000 crowns less than those with children. The differences between salaries of those with and without children are higher in Prague than in other regions, according to the survey in which some 13,000 people took part.
A number of Czech cities purposely misuse residential subsidies, according to an analysis of last year’s austerity packages on ghetto areas. The report, which was compiled for the Ministry of Labour, states that some municipal authorities give the donations to families in need to pay the communities own, high-rent accommodation. It also says that some government cuts and reforms have evidently greatly contributed to a slump for entire groups of residents, while others have not affected ghetto inhabitants at all. The analysis was made over the course of last year and observed the effects of cuts and changed made at the beginning of 2011.
Rejecting a motion by the opposition Social Democrats, the Czech Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld part of the government’s health care reform under which employees receive no pay during the first three days of sick leave. The court struck down a similar measure in the past but the government passed an amended version of the reform which the court said did not constitute a major issue for patients. Reacting to the verdict, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said his party would have to win the next elections to have that piece of legislation removed.
The Czech government on Wednesday adopted an ethical code for public employees. The code requires public employees to report any suspicion on corruption while it also protects whistleblowers from losing their jobs as a result of their action. However, critics pointed out it would be impossible to enforce the regulations due to missing legislation. The Czech branch of anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, welcomed the code as a way of protecting those who report corruption but said the government should follow up with a public service act.
The prison system lacks 1.2 billion for this year, the Justice Ministry reports. The ministry has asked the government to raise its budget by 940 million. However Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has cast doubt on that possibility, suggesting the system has too many employees per inmate. Prison services meanwhile note that the number of inmates is constantly rising and prisons are over capacity. The current budget for the prison system is 7.5 billion crowns.
Trade union representatives will not return to tripartite talks to discuss
planned strike legislation, the head of the independent unions Bohumír
Dufek said in a TV debate programme on Sunday. Union leaders said last
that they would return to the negotiating table with the government and
employers only when there was a new cabinet or the current centre-right
government put the brakes on planned reforms. The head of the trade
union’s umbrella organisation ČMKOS, Jaroslav Zavadil, will reportedly
arrive for talks to be held on May 10, but only to outline the unions’
Representatives are planning on organizing a number of protests – including a strike. The unions most recently called for the government to step down following the splintering of its smallest party, Public Affairs, into a new faction and following the departure of Public Affairs from government. As a result Prime Minister Petr Nečas called a vote of confidence that the government survived with 105 votes in the lower house.
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