Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced significant concessions to the government’s S-card system streamlining social and welfare benefit payments that is to come into effect in January next year. In line with a fresh agreement reached with Ceska Sporitelna and the Czech Postal Service S-Cards will not be mandatory for payments and will only serve for identification purposes. Under the proposed amendment, people will be free to decide whether they want their benefits sent to the S-card account, a different account or by post.The only exemption concerns those suspected of exploiting the welfare benefits system.
The Czech ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský is planning to lodge a legal complaint against the system of checks for the unemployed called DONEZ, which will come into effect starting January. DONEZ requires people registered as unemployed to appear at public administration centers a few times a week. The measure is meant to prevent people who receive unemployment benefits from working illegally. Mr Varvařovský believes this constitutes an excessive encroachment on human dignity.
In Business News this week: Czech real wages continue to fall; few Czechs plan to join a new pension system; Qatar Airways and Korean Air are interested in acquiring Czech Airlines; apartment prices expected to decrease next year; Czech spas going through hard times, and Czech architects win competition to build monument to victims of slavery in Senegal.
According to official figures released on Tuesday, the average salary in the Czech Republic rose to CZK 24,514 in the third quarter of this year, representing an increase of 1.4 percent year-on-year. However, given that consumer prices grew by 3.3 percent in the third quarter, wage-earners were worse off than in the same period in 2011. Analysts said they had not expected such a marked fall in real incomes.
The Czech government plans to keep community service for the unemployed
which was overturned last week by the country’s Constitutional Court, the
minister of labour and social affairs, Ludmila Müllerová said on Czech TV
on Sunday. To accommodate the objections of the court, the system might
undergo some minor changes, Ms Müllerová said. These could include the
prolongation of period after which the jobless are required to start
community service, and even a possibility of some salary being paid to
those who take part in the programme.
The Constitutional Court last week said the free yet compulsory community service for the unemployed, introduced by the Nečas government last year, was humiliating, in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and also contradicted a ban on forced labour.
The new Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Mullerova has launched a clean-up operation to cut all possible ties to the former deputy minister Vladimír Šiška who is charged with corruption. The new minister has appointed Jan Vitula and Zdeněk Kadlec her deputies and says more changes will be implemented as of the beginning of next year. Mr. Šiška’s responsibilities will be divided between the two new deputies to lower the risk of abuse of office. The former social affairs minister Jaromír Drábek resigned in connection with the corruption scandal surrounding his deputy.
A skirmish in the battle over the fate of the right-of-centre government’s extensive programme of reforms reached its final stage on Tuesday. The opposition took a case to the Constitutional Court saying that laws changing the country’s health, social and pension systems had been pushed through in a manner that contravened their rights. In the end, the opposition saw that complaint rejected – but scored a partial success when compulsory work for the jobless was overturned.
A regulation under which casual workers have to undergo a medical examination even if they will only hold a job for one day has been voted the “Absurdity of the Year” in a poll conducted by the business daily Hospodářské noviny. If firms hire the same person for a second day’s work at a later date they are required to get a fresh doctor’s certificate. The annual survey is intended to highlight nonsensical administrative duties forced on businesses by state agencies.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake has submitted a number of proposals that would combine certain ministries, to help reduce spending. Ms Peake has suggested unifying the Health Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, as well as joining the Transportation and the Industry and Trade ministries. Eventually, the deputy prime minister wants the Regional Development Ministry to be scrapped completely. The savings that would result from these changes could be up to 7.7 billion crowns. The proposals, which are meant to come into effect in 2014, are currently being discussed by other ministers. Ms Peake expects that her colleagues will approve at least one of her proposals.
The new Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Müllerová (TOP 09) wants to carry out personnel changes at the ministry in order to cut ties with the former first deputy Vladimír Šiška, according to the Lidové noviny daily. Vladimír Šiška was charged with bribery in October, after which the then labor minister Jaromir Drabek resigned from his post.
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