In Business News this week: The Czech Ministry of Finance cuts its growth outlook for the year to almost zero; fresh figures show 7.2 percent of Czechs were jobless in Q4 2012; passenger numbers and flights were down at Prague airport last year; spas report a halving of business in just three months; and experts say luxury flats in Prague have maintained their value.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has until the end of June to correct mistakes made in the S-Card system, namely breaking the law on personal data protection, the Office for Personal Data Protection revealed on Wednesday. Either the system, which streamlines social benefits and welfare payments, would have to be shelved by the ministry or the current situation would have to be approved in the Chamber of Deputies, the head of the Office for Data Protection Igor Němec announced. The office head explained that the ministry broke the law by sharing client information with the bank Česká spořitelna which administers the S-Card system. The bureau has launched proceedings which could lead to the ministry being fined up to 10 million crowns. The prime minister, Petr Nečas, said in response that he had expected the tough stance by the bureau, stressing that the ministry would have to quickly prepare legislative changes. He is planning to meet with the minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Ludmila Mullerova of TOP 09, saying he expected her to have concrete plans on how to move forward.
The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection will fine the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs over the controversial new electronic system of welfare benefits payments, known as S-Cards, a spokeswoman for the authority said on Friday. The announcement comes following a control of the system by the personal data watchdog at the ministry; the spokeswoman said the amount of the fine would be determined after the authority deals with objections by the ministry, adding that further details should be released next week.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed into law a bill which will raise the salaries of judges and state attorneys. The bill sets a new legal framework for the calculation of salaries in 2013 after the former framework was abolished by the Constitutional Court. In line with the new law judges will receive 2.7 times the average wage in the public sector.
The Supreme Court has ruled that employers are not obliged to offer staff laid off for reasons of redundancy alternative positions within firms, even in cases where similar positions are open. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on Thursday after having studied the Labour Law in detail, in relation to a case in which an employee had been let go earlier for said reasons. The employee, a systems administrator, filed a complaint with the district court in Prague 10 after his position was scrapped, maintaining he should have been offered another job at a time when several within the company were available. Two courts, in Prague 10 and the Prague Municipal Court, originally ruled in his favour, but the Supreme Court struck down the earlier decisions, stressing that the obligation to offer alternative employment ended in 2006. The Supreme Court ruling will apply to all lower-instance court decisions.
The highest unemployment in the country at the end of last year was in the Ústí nad Labem region, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The employment rate in this northern Bohemian region went up by 0.6% from November to reach 14% in December. Contributing factors to the worsening situation on the job market are cutbacks carried out by some of the major employers in the region.
Meanwhile, Czech authorities are preparing for the release of prisoners pardoned under the amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus which comes into effect on Wednesday. Courts are reportedly ready to work around the clock inside prisons to process the relevant cases. Each of the 24 Czech prisons is able to release dozens of prisoners a day, a deputy justice minister said. The police said they had reinforced patrols in regions where the prisons are located. For their part, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs issued directives for labour offices on how to proceed should released prisoners approach them for assistance. Labour offices were told to get sufficient funds in cash to be able to provide extraordinary financial support.
The Senate voted not to deliberate on a bill stipulating salaries for federal judges and tax regulations for lawmakers. The bill thus automatically passed through the upper house and will be going straight to the president to be signed into law. According to the bill, judges’ salaries will be calculated as 2.75 of the national average salary, instead of the current 2.5, as of 1 January. The monthly salary for a judge would thus come out to under 63,000 crowns. The legislation also exempts members of the parliament from paying health and social insurance on their salary bonuses. The bonuses will still be taxable.
Russian and German tourists coming to the Czech Republic support some 50,000 jobs in the local tourist industry, suggests a new survey by the firm Mag Consulting released on Friday. That accounts for more than 20 percent of jobs in the industry. Germans represent the largest group of tourists in the country; each year, around 1.4 million Germans visit the Czech Republic. The second highest number of tourists – around 700,000 – comes from Russia.
The lower house of Parliament has passed a bill which will raise the salaries of judges and state attorneys. The bill, which sets a legal framework for the calculation of salaries in 2013, was passed under an accelerated mechanism known as legislative emergency, in view of the fact that the current system has been abolished by the Constitutional Court as of the end of the year. Under the draft proposal, which still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, judges will receive 2.7 times the average wage in the public sector.
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Minister: Czech Republic won’t take in 40 child refugees from Greek camps
Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events