In Business News this week: government plans to tighten rules for firms bidding for public contracts; Parliament releases parties’ accounts for 2012; Telefónica considers selling stake in Czech division; new film incentives programme attracts foreign productions; women’s salaries grow faster than men’s; and every other Czech would struggle to pay unexpected expenses of 15,000 crowns.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has openly acknowledged that the government’s S-card project, an electronic system for social and welfare benefit payments, was fraught with problems and should be scrapped. At a joint press conference with Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Mullerová, the prime minister said his proposal would be put to the cabinet at the earliest possible date. The S-card system has come under fire from the opposition, trade unions, recipients of welfare and even the Ombudsman for burdening those whom it is meant to serve and for leaving their personal data open to possible abuse. The system was criticized as being unethical and possibly even in violation of the Constitution. Some recipients of welfare benefits had threatened to take it to court despite the fact that the government backtracked and made significant concessions.
Lufthansa airlines have announced that it will cancel most of their flights inside Europea on Thursday due to a planned employee strike over salaries. Passengers are advised that Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf flights from and to Prague will most likely be cancelled in the first part of the day. The strike is scheduled to begin at 5 a.m., Central European time.
The Czech Republic has been experiencing a sort of mini baby boom for the past six or so years, with one of the first generations of well-educated Czech women deciding to put off motherhood until their thirties. These mothers, who had held high-level jobs, travelled around the world and started their own businesses before having their first child, have initially enjoyed the government-subsidized maternity leave, but for many of them this benefit turned into a burden.
The new owner of the truck maker Tatra, Truck Development, officially took charge of the company on Monday, after purchasing it for 176 million crowns at an auction last week. The head of Truck Development, Marek Galvas, said he had no plans to cut the number of employees or limit production, though he is planning to introduce a completely new management team.
The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has unveiled a new plan to combat rising levels of unemployment. Minister Ludmila Müllerová who presented the plan at a news conference in Prague on Friday, said the ministry would spend around seven billion crowns on the programme which includes subsidies for companies which give jobs to unemployed people under 30, support for part-time jobs for mothers and long-term job-seekers, as well as subsidies for the jobless who will become self-employed. The ministry also plans to enhance assistance and support for municipalities, NGOs as well as job seekers.
The Czech carrier ČSA on Friday cancelled one of its Prague- Düsseldorf flights due to a strike by security personnel at several German airports. The strike could also affect other flights between Prague, Düsseldorf and Cologne, operated by ČSA and the German airline Lufthansa, a spokeswoman for Prague’s Václav Havel Airport said.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic rose to 8.1 percent in February, up from 8.0 percent in January. According to figures released on Friday, 593,000 Czechs were out of work last month. The unemployment rate in the capital Prague reached 4.6 percent. The Czech economy is at present going through its longest recession on record.
In Business this week: Korean Airlines bid for a 44 percent stake in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, hackers attack the websites of leading Czech banks and the Prague Stock Exchange, there has been a further growth in unemployment and a drop in spirits sales in the wake of last year’ s methanol poisonings.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic hit a record high at the start of the year. January saw close to 590,000 people out of work, the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The government says this is largely the result of external factors, but critics and trade unions claim the government’s ill-conceived austerity measures have undercut growth.